Management Coaching, Using Learning Styles in Coaching and Training


In management coaching, we can assume that individuals will learn in a very definite way. For example, a Manager may assume that if you tell them, people will learn; others will say that it is better to show them, and then they will learn. Managers think this because that has been their own experience. However, a simple fact of life is that not everyone is like them! In fact, as a rough guide, you can assume that only 20 per cent of the population are like you, and the other 80 per cent are completely different!

In Management coaching, there are some key principles that really do apply to everyone. In addition, there is the Learning Style Model, which is helpful in providing good guidance in how to coach and train different types of people.

The Learning Styles Model

Different Learning Styles have been researched for many years, but one of the best known, and easiest to use is Fleming’s model. This gives four different Learning Styles

  • Visual learners
  • Auditory learners
  • Reading/writing-preference learners
  • Kinaesthetic learners or tactile learners

Each of these styles indicates how the person prefers to learn, and what methods to use to in coaching to foster learning. People can, have course, learn well using some different styles, but it will make life much easier for the learner if you can identify their most dominant style.

Visual Learners

Visual Learners learn best through pictures, diagrams, charts and other visual aids. When a visual learner sees a flow chart or diagram, they can take in and remember quite complex information. When there is a very simple diagram, say five blank boxes in a row, they can use this to help them follow the five points you are making to them.

When coaching, help your visual style learner by asking them to write down notes in flow chart format, draw their own illustrations of what they have learnt, or design PowerPoint slides to instruct someone else.

Auditory Learners

Auditory Learners learn by sound and speech, hearing and saying. All learners will benefit from repeating the instruction, goal or information back to you. Auditory learners need to use this as a strategy always, e.g. reading notes aloud, summarising in bullet points by saying rather than writing them.

Remember that auditory learners in a coaching situation are listening and concentrating on what you are saying. They are not watching what you are doing or showing them. If you are demonstrating something, or showing them the written word in any form, be careful that you MATCH what you say with what you do. If you put up a slide, read the slide aloud with the learner.

With goals and deadlines, they will need an aural reminder. If you are an auditory style learner, you will prefer to have this page explained to you!

Read/Write Learning Style

This group learn by reading the information at their leisure, and writing notes to help understanding and learning. In a coaching situation, this learner will need notes or a manual to consult to back up their learning. It is not that they learn entirely from writing, but to digest and make sense of material, they need to read or write.

Read / Write learners need to translate diagrams and charts into summary bullet point statements. Equally, you should check that they have taken written notes of any demonstrations they have seen. In terms of setting goals and remembering deadlines, the read/write learning style definitely need to see these written down, either written by the coach or themselves. They respond well to lists and written reminders.

Kinaesthetic Learners or Tactile Learners

Tactile or Kinaesthetic style are those who learn by experiencing, repeating a demonstration or by working through a process using gestures. The challenge in a coaching situation is that the tactile learner will lose interest with words, or reading, or even summarising themselves. They need to break up the session by watching a demonstration, role-playing or other actions.

These are ‘have a go’ people and it is important that the coach ensures they break down the learning into bite-sized pieces. Otherwise your tactile learner will be off having a go before they are ready!

These few guidelines should help any coach to ensure their coaching sessions become more effective.

Article Author: Kate Tammemagi

Kate Tammemagi  specialises in Management Training. She provides Management Coaching for all levels.

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About the Author: Kate Tammemagi is Trainer and Consultant in Ireland. She specialises in delivering customised Customer Service Training Courses and Leadership Development Training Courses  in businesses,  call centres and professional environments.


Learning Styles


We all have preferences for how we learn best. Are you visual, auditory or kinaesthetic? Put another way, do you like to see what I mean, or prefer to hear my idea or are you someone who likes to experience or feel what is being talked about.

A person’s learning style is a combination of how they perceive, then organise and finally process information. Once you’re familiar with your learning style, you can take action to help yourself learn faster and more easily.

Plus, learning how to decipher the learning styles of others, like your boss, colleagues, teacher and family can help you strengthen your rapport and influence with them. Determining your own personal learning style is a key to improved performance at work, in training and study, and in social situations. Trainers, teachers and educators are (very slowly) realising that everyone has an optimal way of taking in new information and that some students need to be taught in ways that vary from standard teaching methods. Traditional teaching and assessment has always been aimed at visual learners.

Just as some people have a preference for being right or left-handed, we appear to have a preference for the way we sense the world. To decipher your predominant learning style, the first step is to identify your preferred sense – whether you prefer visual, auditory, or kinaesthetic. As these terms suggest, visual people learn through what they see, auditory learners from what they hear, and kinaesthetic learners from movement and touching.

Although each of us learns in all three of these ways to some degree, most people prefer one over the other two. Do you ever catch yourself saying things like “That looks right to me,” or “I get the picture”? Or are you more likely to say, “That sounds right to me,” or “That rings a bell”? Or “I like the feel of that,” or “I grasp it now”? Expressions like these may be clues to your preferred modality.

If you couldn’t see or hear, or if you couldn’t feel texture, shape, temperature, weight, or resistance in your environment, you would literally have no way of learning. Most of us learn in many ways, yet we usually favour one modality over the others. Many people don’t realise they are favouring one way, because nothing external tells them they are any different from anyone else. Knowing that there are differences goes a long way towards explaining why we have problems understanding and communicating with some people and not with others, and why we handle some situations more easily than others.

So how do you discover your own preferred modality? One simple way is to listen for clues in your speech, as in the expressions above. Another way is to notice your behaviour when you attend a seminar or workshop. Do you seem to get more from reading the handout or from listening to the presenter? Auditory people prefer listening to the material and sometimes get lost if they try to take notes on the subject during the presentation. Visual people prefer to read the handouts and look at the slides the presenter shows. Visual people also take excellent notes. Kinaesthetic learners do best with “hands on” activities and group interaction.

The bad news regarding learning styles is that school and college are easier for people who score highest on the “visual” learning style preference. So if you are predominantly auditory or kinaesthetic, you may be at an initial disadvantage. It’s not that visual learners are smarter, it’s just that they think in a certain way that matches up perfectly with how schools and examining boards around the world test.  They test in the written form – usually 1, 2 or even 3 hour written examinations.

Visual learners think in pictures, so it makes it easier for them to learn and remember new information. For everything they read, it’s as if they were watching TV or movies in their heads. There is an old saying – one picture is worth a thousand words.  So, when visual learners want to remember what they have learned, they replay that movie in their mind that they already made while they were studying.

By now, you’re probably asking, so what about me?  “Is there an easy way for me to get higher grades if I my learning style preference is more auditory or more kinaesthetic”?

Yes, there is! And you’ll have to do it because until we come up with a better way to find out what you have learned in school, then written tests are going to be around for a very long time.

So, the tip is to learn how to add some visual thinking strategies to the learning style you already have. That then gives you even more learning abilities.

Those who are having the easiest time with their study think in pictures, and the way you can do that is to pretend that you’re going to turn everything you read or hear in the classroom or from a textbook into a movie in your mind.

You know how you look up at the movie screen when you’re at the movies – well, if you do the same thing in the classroom to get more “visual”, then school or college will get a whole lot easier.

If you’re really serious about wanting better grades, then give it a try.

This has been a very brief introduction to this important and exciting area.

Author: Lisabeth Protherough

Copyright 2006 Lisabeth Protherough

Lisabeth Protherough is a qualified Chartered Accountant and Education Consultant from the UK, with 20 years experience training and teaching students in the university and business sectors. She heads up Student Success Solutions a global organisation offering educational advice to students around the world. She is passionate about great education and the life changing impact it can have. Lisabeth is on a mission to make education interesting and to help students unlock their potential.

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