Adults Can Learn New Things – It Just Might Take Some Longer

Suppose for a moment that we are born a certain style – a certain way of behaving. And suppose for a moment that – that style dictates the way that we communicate, and interact with others. And suppose for a moment that there were four distinct styles of behaving and that, generally speaking, we “fit” into one of those four styles. If that were true, would there be any value in understanding your style and the styles of the people you work with and interact with? Would others be more receptive to what you where saying if you communicated with them in a style that they liked? Would they be more likely to learn if you taught them in the way they preferred?

The one thing we know for certain is that adults can learn new things – it just might take some a little longer than others – but eventually everyone can learn. You just need to create an environment that is conducive to learning. Great teaching – like great coaching – has more to do about attitude than aptitude. You don’t have to be the smartest teacher or coach in the room to be the most effective teacher or coach in the room. You just need to take the time to get to know the person you are working with – how they like to receive information, what learning style works best for them – and then modify your approach to be more in “tune” with the way they like to be taught. One teaching and coaching style does not fit all.

DISC – Four Distinct Styles of Behaving.

The next time you have an opportunity to teach or coach someone – take a moment and try to assess their style of behaving. I use an assessment tool based on the language of DISC – which was first developed by Dr. William Marston. Each of the four distinct styles prefer a certain way of communicating and interacting. Once I’ve identified the type of person I’m working with – I simply modify my  teaching style to be more in tune with their style.  There are no dumb students – only dumb teachers who don’t use all the tools available to them to insure the student learns. One style does not fit all.

Dominate persons tend to think on their feet and make quick decisions. They are not big on detail. However, they are task focused and enjoy a challenge. Make communication brief and to the point. Respect their need for autonomy. Be clear about rules and expectations and then get out of their way and let them to do. At all cost, resist the urge to micro-manage them. Be prepared for blunt, demanding approaches. They lack empathy for others.

Interactive persons love to be around people. They enjoy the social interaction that work affords them. They are great at bringing people together and building collaborative teams. Be relaxed and sociable. Let them verablize thoughts and feelings. Provide instructions but keep the conversation light  and use humour. Be prepared for them to try to oversell their ideas. They have a need for the spotlight.

Steadiness persons show up to work on time, are very loyal and like to maintain the status-quo. Provide a consistent and secure environment. Be logical and systematic in your approach  and let them adapt slowly to change. Be prepared for a resistance to change. They may have difficulty in identifying priorities and delivering their work on time.

Conscientious persons are your very best planners. Their strength is knowledge based. They know what they know and they know it very well. They are perfectionists. Be sure to give clear expectations , but more importantly be very clear on deadlines. Allow precedent to be your guide. Be prepared for a resistance to vague or general information. They have little need for social interaction and would prefer to work alone.

Remember everyone has peak performance potential. You just need to know where they are coming from and meet them there. One style does not fit all so modify your approach so that you are  more in tune with the person you are working with and I guarantee you – that even old dogs like me can learn new tricks. Have fun 🙂

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