In a recent 4MAT train the trainer session, the question of “How do we convince managers that understanding how the brain works is important to everyone in the organization, not just to training and development?” To answer this question, let’s explore the value leaders will generate by understanding how learning happens and how the 4MAT Leadership Behavior Inventory assesses leadership approach.
If you are familiar with the 4MAT learning styles model, you know that there are four primary preferences related to the process of taking in and making meaning of information. Most individuals have a dominant preference in one of the four learning approaches while others have a secondary approach that is also frequently used. This means that a manager has a preferred approach and every individual on their team has a preferred approach. At times, these preferences differ greatly.
A manager’s learning style influences their approach to communicating, planning, coaching, project management, prioritizing and more. If managers and leaders are using one or two dominant information sharing and processing approaches to manage people, programs and processes, it is likely that productivity and overall effectivess of the team and the organization suffers. For example, a senior leadership team that relies heavily on the 4MAT Type 3 and Type Four approach when communicating will miss half of the organization with their message. The value of understanding learning preferences lies in understanding that your 4MAT learning style refers to the part of the learning process that you prefer and tend to linger in the longest. To produce optimal results, we must move through the entire learning process in our planning, communicating and learning.
When a manager or leader understands how to form and lead groups that will generate balanced thinking, results increase exponentially. Here are some of the ways that managers and leaders who understand learning styles and understand how learning happens use this information to create higher performance:
Role design-When analyzing a project or team function, a manager that has awareness of the different learning style approaches of each individual on their team will organize the work to align with the thinking strengths of each individual. This enables each individual to contribute at the highest level.
Job Placement-When hiring for a position, a manager with a strong understanding of thinking preferences will look to see if the functions required in the role align with the natural strengths of the individual. They will ask themselves, “Will this person be operating from their natural strengths the majority of the time in this role?” For example, the 4MAT research team has identified that 44% of public hospital health nurses are strongest in the Type One learning approach. This indicates a feeling and reflective approach to interacting with others with a strong disposition towards listening that would serve well in the role of caretaker.
Team Structure-Differences in style create tension. This tension is healthy when it is acknowledged and celebrated as a valuable element of the team’s diversity. For example, a strong Type 4 team member will focus on possibilities while a team member with a strong Type 2 preference will focus on probabilities. Partnering these two thinkers on a new product development project will deliver well-thought-out solutions that are innovative and likely to be successful, based on past performance.
Organizational design-The extensive research on 4MAT learning style preferences in different functional roles confirms that different thinking styles gravitate to different functional roles. For example, our research shows that the majority of entrepreneurs and strategic planners have a preference for the 4MAT Type Four learning style while the majority of bookkeepers and operations managers have a preference for the 4MAT Type 2 learning style. The differences between these functions in an organization create healthy tension and balance between possibilities and probabilities.
There are many benefits to understanding learning styles and the way that learning happens. If you want to invite leaders in your organization into this conversation, one of the most effective ways to do this is to assess their leadership approach through then lens of the 4MAT Leadership Behavior Indicator (LBI). Here is an overview of the four approaches:
The Type One leadership approach is highly collaborative, team-oriented and focused on people.
The Type Two leadership approach is highly structured, fact-based and focused on process.
The Type Three leadership approach is highly practical, action-oriented and focused on performance.
The Type Four leadership approach is highly intuitive, adaptation-oriented and focused on possibility.