Nathy Gaffney

How many of you in your work lives have been given a project to work on, where you have to work alongside other colleagues?

You prepare and dive in according to your own rhythms, only to discover that they learn, prepare, process information and master new skills in a completely different way to you?! If not understood and accounted for in the process , this potentially can make for a great deal of frustration, hold ups, misunderstandings and flare ups.

……The story so far…….In my previous post – I talked about how learning Salsa has improved my capacity to become comfortable with uncertainty. Not always knowing where your partner will ‘lead’ you, can make it uncomfortable for those who are used to being in the drivers seat, but I’m learning to understand and embrace the magic that can come from ‘learning to follow’.

Which brings me to my topic today – the ‘learning’ part. My partner and I have been having private Salsa lessons once a week – partly because of our conflicting work schedules, but also because he wanted to fast track the learning curve and “nail it” (in his words). I would have quite happily mooched along at the group classes for a couple of terms – just learning in a social atmosphere and gradually gaining confidence as we progressed at a similar pace to the other dancers.

Not so for the ‘Salsa Ninja’ (SN) as he shall forever be known. He wanted to master the art under the watchful eye of Sensai Felix – and drill it ‘til it hurts. (My lower back and shoulders are certainly complying!)

……Different learning styles in action…..SN approaches our lessons as if they’re a scene out of ‘Fast & Furious 7’. Pedal to the metal, high octane, shut up and drive is his style. We were learning a new turn. Sensai Felix demonstrated once – focusing on the move for SN. I just went with it and twirled. I was barely facing the front before SN had jumped in and was executing the demonstrated turn. Now – in Salsa – there is usually a customary ‘basic step’ that everyone does before diving into the ‘pattern’. This is to physically and mentally prepare for the turn or move about to take place. SN considers this preparation a waste of time – he already knows this pesky basic step standing in between him and ‘spinning girlfriend black belt mastery!’.

After being spun about 8 times in rapid succession – I called a halt to the proceedings. For one – I was on the verge of vomiting, but also – while he was learning by fast and furious repetition – I was completely lost. I had no idea what he was doing, or what I was supposed to be doing in this process.

I stopped, steadied myself, and requested that Sensai Felix talk me through what is supposed to be happening to each body part, and to then slowly break down the move, step by minute step. Twice please!

SN started to twitch and fidget in his shoes. This snails pace and elaborate examination of the ‘process’ just didn’t fit with his ‘learning style’ at all. But I quietly requested (insisted), and then once I was confident that I ‘understood’ how my body should move through the process – I abandoned myself to the twirling ‘bootcamp energy’ style favoured by my enthusiastic partner – and joined him in twirling up a storm.

…..and then…..We both experienced moments of discomfort – when we were subjected to having to submit to the other’s style of learning. But we also both realized, and discussed later, that by allowing the other the space to experience the process in our own comfort zone – that when we moved on – we’d both learned more – than had we just been on our own ‘learning curve’ exclusively.

…..moral of the story……Some like to attack a project in big picture style – bold and brazen, then finesse and fine tune later. Others, in order to enjoy the boldness of what they will eventually create, need to understand the fine details along the way. Some are visual and physical. They need to see and do. Others are auditory and kinesthetic – they need to listen and feel their way through a learning process.

If you would like to know more about how different learning styles can impact your team or your business, connect with Phuel and we’ll shout you a coffee to talk more!

If learning Salsa sounds like something that would float your boat – Sensai Felix is your man!

Keen to know more about how to implement these and other initiatives at your next team get together? We’d love to chat about our how we can help. To start your thinking, let's talk to find out what's possible.