We do not all learn in the same ways. When I bought my first car, a 1970 something Ford V8, I was determined to save money by doing the services myself. I bought a manual for the model and set about maintaining the vehicle. In hindsight, it would have made a hilarious set of videos for Funniest Home Videos. On one, rather embarrassing, maintenance misadventure I attempted to follow the manual’s instructions for greasing the wheels. When I proudly stepped back to admire my work there was a large pile of grease on the ground under each wheel! Thankfully, a very amused friend eventually took pity on me and showed me where I went going wrong.

As a teacher I know that children do not learn in the same ways. My car maintenance journey helped me see even more clearly that I am a very visual learner. If I read a manual I learn some things. if I hear an explanation I learn some things. If I attempt it myself I learn some things. However, it is when I can see it, see someone else doing it, see a simple diagram explaining it or watch an example on a video, that learning makes the greatest advances for me.

People do not all learn the same way. Our minds work and acquire knowledge and skills differently. We can loosely break the ways we learn into three main categories. These are: visual, aural, and kinaesthetic learning. If you are a visual learner you learn best when you can see what is being taught in picture form such as a diagram or a series of photos, or watch how someone else does it. If you are an auditory learner you learn best when something is explained to you out loud; and, if you are a kinaesthetic learner you learn best when you can touch what you are learning about, when you are able to move when you are learning, or when you can do what it is you are trying to learn.

In a conference or meeting I always feel for the kinaesthetic learners. If they find themselves in an environment where the norm is sit down, sit up, don’t fidget etc. they will find learning a bit of a struggle.

If you search the topic of learning styles on the Internet You will find many variations on them but, essentially, they all fall into the three I have mentioned. The key thing leaders need to remember is that the learning styles of the members of your team may not be the same as your own. If you want more information the Mindtools website has some tools that might help.

Take some time to observe your team members. When they attempt something for the first time try a range of approaches to teaching them how to do it. You should be able to pick up how they learn best. This simple idea will probably save you, and your team, a lot of frustration. Once you know a person’s main learning style you can approach training with this in mind.

I have often heard leaders bemoan the fact that they have told a team member something repeatedly, shown them how to solve a problem a number of times, pointed them to the appropriate written resources for a particular project, or their team member cannot seem to focus and sit still for any length of time. The simple answer might well be that the leader is trying to teach something using the way that they would like to have it taught to them, rather than with an understanding of the different ways the people in the room may learn best.

Take the time to discover your learning style, and your team members’ preferred learning styles and help them understand it themselves. It will save you from a lot of frustration but, more importantly, it is another way of putting their interests first!