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Getting on The Same Page with Your Team

I’ve been a Trainer for years, and every day I work with small businesses and company owners faced with the endless questions on communication.  “…Am I just a dinosaur that can’t communicate to these young people?” asked Ms. Lovely Biz Owner-Y.  After some discourse and discussion the dinosaur thinking melts away and the story-sharing inevitably begins.

So, need to stop being a dinosaur and learn these, good and proper…

In this blog I will share one of my favourite stories that illustrate the need to understand communication from a different angle.  I will also discuss how I use one of my time-tested learning models to address challenges such as that of Ms. Biz Owner-Y:

And so the story goes:
I have two new guys that are starting with me in my Bistro and it’s really important that I give them all the skills they need to make a really good cup of coffee, our customers expect it made the same way by any barista any time of day. My Senior Barista for yonks was burned out and needed to take an extended holiday, but despite the barrage of applications we get for Baristas (most of whom had come ‘with training’), there was still an absolute need for consistency and for a watchful eye every time my Senior guy had to take a proper break.  Let’s think this through…

Now Josh is a bit of a doer: he likes to just crack on, when he came in for the interview all he wanted to do was show me how well he could make a coffee and add the frothy milk to it, clearly he wanted to impress and had been practicing.  I loved his enthusiasm; his first effort wasn’t bad but needs to work on not wasting so many of the coffee beans and pressing the coffee down properly into the press so that the whole flavour comes through the beans.

Now young George was more of a thinker: he wanted to watch one our experienced members of staff, made notes, measured the coffee beans into the press so very precisely and although the coffee was a tad cooler when it got to me again not a bad first effort.  So with these two very different young men in mind I need to think of a plan to get them both up to speed very quickly so that my experienced Barista can take his family on a well-earned holiday.

Some of the same basic rules apply whether you’re managing a small team of sales people, or Cafe Staff: Understanding their learning styles is really key to knowing the best way that you can train them to deliver the same experience to your customers time and time again.

Team Learning Styles
There are four main learning styles that I’ve personally encountered regularly and these are based around Kolb’s experiential learning model and the styles set by Honey and Mumford.  They are: Activist, Theorist, Pragmatist and Reflector.

The Activist

Activists learn by doing, by being hands on, and generally want to get stuck in straight away.  They don’t mind if they make a fool of themselves by asking questions or volunteering for something new.  They are enthusiastic and open-minded.

 

The Theorist

Theorists learn through logic, facts, strong arguments and asking questions.  They think through problems in a logical, step-by-step fashion.  They also find it useful to make a list of everything that needs to be learned and then tick off each item as it is dealt with.
They tend to be perfectionists who do not rest easy until things are tidy and fit into a rational scheme.

 

The Pragmatist

Pragmatists learn by seeing the practical application and benefits and are keen on trying out new ideas, theories and techniques to see if they work in practice.  They appreciate having a specific task or project to work on and like to get on with things, and act quickly and confidently on ideas that attract them.

 

 The Reflector

Reflectors learn by thinking and reflecting and like to stand back to reflect experiences and observe from many different perspectives. They are thoughtful people who like to consider all possible angles and implications before making a move so they may find it useful to spend a few minutes thinking things through.

 

As individuals, we have our own preferred teaching and communication methods which may in fact be influenced by our own learning preferences.  Sounds pretty basic right?  It is– we need to be aware of our own preferences and the range of preferences of our audiences.  By understanding this, and developing the skills that help you learn in a variety of ways, you make the most of your learning potential. And because you’re better able to learn and gather information, you’ll make better decisions and choose better courses of action.

In a nutshell, no need to think (nor act like) you’re a dinosaur…Things change, trends change, but at the core of it all: people can change but cannot help but learn in the way that they have learned most of their life before you.  By understanding that different people can have quite different learning preferences, you can learn to tailor your communication by tweaking your message in a way that resonates with how people can understand best.
Published Friday January 24, 2014

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