We all have different learning styles – some of it personality based, some based on the way we best absorb information. The two most common styles I’ve run into are the learn-as-you-go style (that’s me all the way) and the learn-it-all-first style. There are some who fall in between, but most seem to fall in one camp or another.
Both styles have their strengths and weaknesses and I’ll get to those in just a moment. When you’re coaching others, it’s very important to learn what their style is and teach to it. Don’t try and teach them the way you learn, or expect them to do as you do. It can put the kibosh on the whole relationship, it can even keep people from moving forward.
Since most people come from a job, rather than an entrepreneurial environment, they’re fairly used to people telling them what to do. In fact, the measure of their success is sometimes related to how well they follow instructions and work according to a pre-established plan.
That being the case, they may accept whatever you teach them as the ONLY way things are done. That can work against you both, because they’re not accountable to you for their paycheck and they may just decide it’s won’t work for them.
I think the best approach is to ask someone right out – what’s your style? Are you someone who likes to study every detail before you get something started, or do you like to learn as you go? Then I would tailor my training to their answer. Both have their risks.
For the person who likes to learn as they go, they risk getting out of the gate without enough knowledge, coming across as sheer enthusiasm with no substance and turn some people off. Especially if they’re talking to someone that needs a lot of info up front – they won’t have it yet to give.
That’s OK and I like to encourage that style and just be sure you’re there to help them when necessary – doing 3 way calls to get questions answered, filling in the information blanks for them so they can learn from listening to someone else answer questions. This works well and the person is out there talking to people. It avoids procrastination and gets things moving, which is what needs to happen anyway.
The ones who study every detail run the risk of never getting started. There’s so much to learn, that they may hide behind the information and so much time goes by that know a lot, but have dampened the sheer enthusiasm and excitement they had when they first got started. I’ve worked with people that worry about every detail and what someone might ask, or want to know, and they worry about the gaps in their own knowledge. The truth is, most people don’t ask every question anyway AND more importantly, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out” is a great answer too. You can be new at something and still speak intelligently – and you need to make sure people know and understand that and have access to the information or people who can help them when they get asked something they can’t answer.
So, how do you, as the coach, handle these differences and make it work for everyone? It’s genuinely helpful is to get good at communication – in other words, just ask them what they need – what will be most helpful to them, and as they move along asking them how the process is working for them, and what would help them to improve, to feel more confident and then point them in the direction of that learning.
You want to establish right at the door that the goal is to feel confident enough to start talking to people. Find out what they think that will take and how long. Then find out when they can devote that time and establish a plan, and a date to ‘launch’.
If you’ve got measured expectations, and you both know what they are, it gives you a basis for checking back in and holding them accountable. And, you should have a good idea of the steps of ‘initial information mastery’. Perhaps there are 6 videos to watch and a few things to listen to or read. Say that it going to take 5 or 6 hours, or 10. You ask them – is this something you can get done this week? Today is Saturday, can we aim to get underway by the end of this week?
You might even go as far as to lay it out for them (you don’t have to custom create this each time, it can be the sequence everyone follows), such as: OK – first watch this video – it runs about 45 mintues, get that done day 1, then day 2, you’ll want to read this and listen to a webinar. Whatever the sequence, lay it out and get a commitment. You’ll never get hurt by getting too specific, but you could suffer from not being specific enough. After all, if you establish what needs to get done, and someone doesn’t do it, it’s an indication of their work style and what you might expect down the road. And, if someone is a non-starter, it’s way better to know sooner rather than later.
Be up front and direct with people in these instances. If they don’t get the work done, ask them outright what got in the way? And remind them that the goal was getting started with Phase 2 (talking to others) by the end of the week, so we’re off track – what do they see happening now? Get a sense of what’s going on. Things come up, and sometimes there are good reasons for not getting something done, and sometimes there just aren’t. Don’t judge them, don’t get an attitude, just provide some direction and see where things go.
I genuinely believe that you can’t motivate anyone to do anything. You can inspire them by your own actions, but no one is going to do anything because you want them to. They do it because of their own inner motivation. You can guide them, you can teach them, but you can’t make it happen. You know, it’s that old ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’. It really helps to be aware of that, so you don’t feel like it’s your fault or responsibility. It’s not.
That’s why we work with the willing and let the rest come around if and when they will. Knowing and understanding this early, and following these guidelines will save you time and heartache (and sometimes a headache too…) and will help you to become a better coach and mentor. At first it may be difficult to ask people to follow a certain course and to have expectations, but you’ll get better over time, and expecting things of people helps them to rise to their potential.