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Learning to communicate with all learning styles

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In the old days, your range of learning styles was pretty much limited to sitting attentively while a teacher spoke on a subject. Meanwhile, you took notes, studied in class (or wherever-the office, congress, etc.) and at home, and then proved your mastery of the subject through some sort of testing process. Nowadays, with the advent of "styles" of learning, a smart business leader will consider the following points.

  1. First, sometimes expressions such as "learning styles" are simply excuses for not working. You must not only be able to spot such tactics, you must be able to gently put a stop to them, and guide your employee toward the desired goal-that they learn X well enough to perform X well. Imagine if you asked your child to clean their room and they refused on the ground that they didn't know how. Fair enough-you'll teach them. You'll take, say, a small corner of the room and tidy it up, thus providing a pattern for your child to follow. Now imagine that they say, "I still can't clean my room; I don't learn through observation; it's not my style." What would your reaction be, other than to stare or laugh? You'd smell a rat for sure. More questions would probably reveal that your child learned best through you cleaning their room top to bottom while they got something to eat in the kitchen. Then they'd know how to do it for sure! "Learning styles," even in the workplace, can take on this rather slippery, greasy texture. Learn to know when someone's simply evading responsibility.
  2. You can tell the genuine from the fake, usually, by attitude. You can usually tell if someone really wants to learn something. You can tell because they'll first try to learn it the way you teach it; they won't start blustering and introducing qualifications from the start. It may be that your new employee genuinely struggles with listening to instructions; they may have legitimate difficulties with this "style" of learning. But the sincere employee will give it the old college try before asking for special privileges. There are cases where an employee has had so many bad experiences with a certain kind of learning that they absolutely know they'll fail at it. The key to separating the sheep from the wolves in this scenario is that the sheep will come to you privately to tell you of their problem, and evince an eagerness to helpfully solve the problem with you-not have you heroically solve it for them. You've hired them. They know this, and won't try to switch places with you.
  3. For this reason, it's a good idea to get to know something of a prospective employee's learning method during the interviewing process; that is, before you hire them, find that they're poor stuff, fire them, and find that they're litigious. It's not hard to get a sense of how someone learns in an interview. You'll want to ask them about past job experiences, and it might be a good idea to actually call some of their former employers and learn what's what.
  4. Every good business leader should be willing to take some one-on-one time with an employee, and help them reach their maximal potential. Sometimes, employees who struggle learning the traditional way turn out to be the hardest working of the lot. It's okay to assign an experienced employee to guide them through a process, thus allowing them to participate in a given assignment before taking it on all lonesome like. You just want to be sure that your new employee is genuine; that they really want to work; otherwise you'll hire someone to work for you and end up working for them.

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Posted by DF
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