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Effectively coaching and training your team ranks as a top concern among company owners and managers. Many are trying to find the balance between their own workload and providing their employees with essential skills and knowledge. As the consumer products and marketing business environments become more competitive, with goals and objectives that continue to escalate, our challenge is to do more with the limited amount of time we have in a week.

So how do we begin to find time to coach our people? And are open to receiving it? It is one of the classic organizational dilemmas.

Work Harder?

For most of us, historically, the concept of coaching and learning comes from the perspective of “throwing them into the water to see if they can swim.” So, naturally, the coaching sounds something like “I just noticed your quarterly numbers are down; you need to get them up! You’ve got to have a high volume of activity to make it at our company.”

This is certainly an understandable paradigm as most of us were raised in results-oriented, bottom-line environments. Although these coaching statements are true, the problem is that these comments boil down to “work harder” which only helps if “work harder” is the right answer. The “work harder” response is about as effective as a football coach standing under the goal post and yelling out the score to his team.

Coaching, Not Directing

“If I’m going to position myself as your coach, I’ve got to watch you play the game.” This means the manager must coach to more than just results or the attempt at results. In order for coaching and learning to be truly effective, it must be around more than just the results. Coaching must encompass the skills, knowledge, effort and attitude of the work being done.

Different Learning Styles

Most people are willing to learn if you know how to tap into their learning style. Your challenge is to develop your unique coaching style and your training curriculum so that it engages all four learning styles effectively.

Kinesthetic learners need to understand the application of real-life experiences and tend to respond best to role-play exercises. Auditory learners work best when they can speak, discuss, and think out loud; repetition is key for auditory learners. Visual learners need to see images and visualize as part of their learning process. Reading/writing learners retain best when they use written quizzes or hand-outs.

For the time-conscious manager, the best way to ensure the incorporation of all four learning styles into the training curriculum is through the process known as blended learning. Unlike traditional education, corporate training exists primarily to improve business performance. Blended learning allows for the consideration of an individual’s learning style. A study by Harvard Business School faculty Drs. DeLacey and Leonard Peter found that providing several linked options for learners, in addition to classroom training, significantly increased what they learned.

What’s in a blend? Blended learning includes face to face classroom training, videos, online training workshops, one-on-one coaching, as well as webinar guest speakers and literature. Often, for the time-weary manager, utilizing outside resources helps to reinforce a message in a multitude of ways. It is typically the type of message that the manager repeats regularly, but when the same message is delivered a different way, or by a different person, it is often at that point the learner suddenly “gets it” – to the obvious frustration of many managers who wondered why their people did not “listen” to them in the first place!

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