Monday, October 25, 2010

Learning and the Crisis of Confidence - Part # 1

THEME: Fall 2010 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable Report

Monday morning: October 25, 2010

Dear friends,

This past summer, my wife, Jane, and I continued taking ballroom dancing lessons, something we started last winter. Our youngest son, Jacob, who has been a member of the ISU competitive ballroom dancing team joined us. Twice a week for an hour, we learned and practiced such dances as foxtrot, tango, waltz, etc. Being a student like this continues to be quite eye opening experience for me. It was a weekly trough of chaos as I struggled to keep up with all of the new information.

Upon reflection, I have realized that learning is mentally exhausting. While this may sound like I am the oracle of the obvious, a delightful term I learned from my older brother, it is still an important realization. There are points in the learning process when it is too much information to process. Routinely my feet and my head could not absorb and figure out what to do. I needed to review, review, review, and then practice, practice, practice just to keep up. I also realized that I will be a beginner for a long time.

But what I learned along with mental exhaustion is an old Hoosier saying: “Knowing it ain't the same as doing it.” Retention is limited and the power of praise is huge. It can mean everything to the learner. Furthermore, we have to realize that pride and vanity can be the greatest obstacles to learning more than stupidity. “Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one’s self-esteem, ” writes Mike Meyer.

At the same time, we as leaders need to remember that people learn in different ways. And that no one has a better learning style than anyone else. There are three basic types of learning: analyzing learners, doing learners, and watching learners. Analyzers understand a task by taking it apart, examining its elements, and then reconstructing it piece by piece. They crave information, and need to know all there is to know before they are comfortable with it. The best way to teach them is with ample classroom time, role play with them, and do a post-mortem through analysis. Remember that they hate mistakes and do not like to “wing it” before doing something.

A Doer, on the other hand, likes to be thrown into a new situation and wing it. While an Analyzer learns before doing, a Doer learns through doing it. Role playing seems fake to them. With a Doer, just define the outcomes and get out of the way. Mistakes are the raw material for learning.

Finally, Watchers are imitators. Their best way to learn is not through taking a task apart and learning each part. Instead, they need to see the total performance and watch experienced performers do it.

To understand how your key people learn, ask the following questions from: Marcus Buckingham’s book, “The One Thing You Need to Know ... About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success”, Free Press, 2005: When in your career do you think you were learning the most? Why did you learn so much? What’s the best way for you to learn?

This week remember that learning takes time and energy. Also, remember that different people have different ways of learning.

Have a marvelous week,


Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

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