Great coaches are made, not born. They spend years learning what works to create a motivated, highly engaged team. From sports to business, great coaches can bring together individuals with different styles and strengths and persuade them to focus on a shared goal, mission and values. Such leaders take time to understand their team members’ personal goals, help them improve their skills, and acknowledge how individual achievements contribute to the team’s success.
Coaches who do those things achieve excellent results, from Little League to the big leagues to the workplace.
Of course, if you want results, you have to make the effort to connect personally with the members of your team. This is more than making small talk at the water cooler about family or the weather. Those office pleasantries are important, but they won’t do much for the success and growth of your business. What will help is understanding your employees’ preferred learning styles and communication preferences. Your ability to recognize and act on this valuable information will help you become a very successful coach.
Understanding Learning Styles
As an adult, or maybe even as a child, you probably discovered that you have a preferred way of taking in new information. This is one of your strengths, and is something academics and educators would call your “learning style.”
At Cornerstone Business Advisors, we subscribe to Neil D. Fleming’s Visual Auditory Kinesthetic (VAK) model of learning styles. This model suggests that most people have one of three preferred learning styles, although some people learn best through an even balance of all three.
Fleming’s model includes these categories:
- Visual learners. People who learn by seeing. Visual learners assimilate information by looking at pictures, charts or videos, and demonstrate their skills through reading, writing, puzzle building, drawing, fixing and designing objects. They typically have a good sense of direction.
- Auditory learners. People who learn by listening. Auditory learners are typically good at making speeches or presentations, think in words rather than pictures, enjoy learning through lectures, and have strong listening, storytelling, teaching and memorization skills.
- Kinesthetic learners. People who learn by touching, moving and doing. Most kinesthetic learners have good hand-eye coordination and balance, find it hard to sit still for long periods of time, and express emotions with their bodies.
As a manager, it’s your job to recognize that each employee has a preferred learning style or a combination of styles. Your coaching efforts can and should include helping your employees recognize and use their preferred learning styles on the job. As their manager, you also may need to adjust your way of communicating with individual employees, or use several methods of communication (staff meetings, web portals, whiteboards).
Recognizing Communication Preferences
Communication preferences go hand-in-hand with learning styles. While people are generally aware that they have communication strengths, they may not be aware that these communication styles are well-defined and produce specific and unique patterns.
An individual's communication style can be determined, shared and enhanced through the use of our Performance Culture System and our partnership with Forté Institute. From the individual’s primary profile, Forté creates a report that presents the environment he or she needs to be self-motivated, effective and productive.
In most Forté profiles, a primary communication style strength will be evident, which will most often control that individual’s attitudes, actions and responses. These strengths also will reflect how an individual thinks, understands and comes across to others.
Forté assessments identify four primary communication strengths:
- Dominance/Non-Dominance. The dominant person is primarily concerned with getting things done. Dominant people are hard-driving and dislike indecisiveness. They are risk-takers. The non-dominant person is characterized by a non-threatening way of working with others, is mild-mannered, composed and often modest. Non-dominant people prefer direction.
- Extroversion/Introversion. Extroverts are friendly, persuasive, emphatic, enthusiastic, talkative, motivating and optimistic. They are good mixers and good coordinators. Introverts take great care in protecting their private lives. They are creative and have an individualistic side that can manifest itself in a vivid imagination and the ability to think things through to a conclusion.
- Patience/Impatience. The patient individual is easygoing, steady, amiable, warm, dependent, sincere and a good listener. Patient people like peace and harmony, time to adjust to change, and to be cooperative. The impatient person is action-oriented and often has to do things twice for lack of adequate planning. These individuals like to keep busy and have others respond quickly to them. They learn quickly and prefer variety.
- Conformity/Non-Conformity. The conformist will be careful, thorough, skillful, dependable, conservative, anxiety-prone and sensitive to criticism. Favoring details and systems, conformists want outcomes to be “right” and fair. The non-conformist is characterized by a generalist orientation to life. These individuals usually are uninhibited, candid and relate well to activities that take them out of ordinary situations. They can be resistant to controls and will tend to rationalize.
These profiles offer coaches valuable insight into what motivates their employees as individuals. The Cornerstone team has seen how applying this information will lead to remarkable improvements in employee engagement.
I truly believe that there is an art to coaching employees. To become an effective coach, you must adapt your style of teaching and communication to the person you are coaching and help him or her do the same with others.
The Cornerstone Business Advisors team includes former C-Level executives, successful entrepreneurs and advisors who offer unmatched experience in delivering advanced, custom-tailored, results-oriented solutions for business leaders. Cornerstone has worked with hundreds of companies that range from fast-growth start-ups to Fortune 500 corporations. It developed the Performance Culture System™ to help clients implement best practices and drive high performance throughout their organization. For more information, visit
www.PerformanceCulture.com or email [email protected].