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Implementing & Facilitating In-House Training For Technicians Part Two

In a public square in Florence, Italy stands a marble statue that is known worldwide as a masterpiece. It’s Michelangelo’s David. Well, not the real David. The sculpture that tourists visit in droves every day in the public square is not the original. It’s an exact copy that was accomplished via laser technology. Italian officials wanted to preserve the tradition of the statue being in its original position, where Michelangelo intended it to be… enjoyed in the open, surrounded by the buildings in the square.

The original statue is on display in a museum nearby, and the wait to get in to view it is usually about 4 hours. When you see either one, whether or not you are an art lover, you are amazed by Michelangelo’s accomplishment. You are in awe of his skill as a sculptor. And of course, Michelangelo, in his lifetime, accomplished much more than just the statue of David….the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican is just one more example of his skill as an artist.

What we need to remember about this artistic genius is that despite all of his obvious skills, and all the statues and paintings he was able to produce in his lifetime, he always considered himself to be a student of art. At the age of 87, he was quoted as saying “Ancora imparo”……”Still, I learn.”

 

When it comes to facilitating in-house training sessions, taking Michelangelo’s approach is something for us to consider. If we’re going to be effective in providing training, we have to accept the fact that people may have specific tendencies and methods of communication when it comes to learning, and that our method of understanding things may not be a perfect match to theirs. One aspect of personal communication we can study to learn more about how to be an effective facilitator is known as Neuro Linguistic Programming. Known commonly as NLP, a simple way to consider to explain it is:

Neuro = Brain
Linguistic = Language
Programming = Information Processing System
….which simply means that the human brain may employs a certain language for processing information, and, we’re not all the same when it comes to our learning style.

NLP came about when two university professors (Richard Bandler and David Grinder), one a linguistics expert and the other from a mathematics background, wondered about something. That something was why some students seem to “connect” with a particular instructor in an academic situation, and in turn, do well in their studies, while other students don’t seem to connect and do well. They reasoned (quite correctly) that the problem couldn’t just lie with the students. After all, there were situations in which students didn’t do well with one professor, did quite well with another, so that meant that they had both the ability and the motivation to learn. But, what was the underlying reason behind this phenomenon, they wondered.

Well, their wondering and considering and testing and measuring and observing led to the conclusion that people, whether they are in a student/professor situation or other type of environment, have specific ways of communicating. And sometimes that communication isn’t good match, which results in problems in the conveyance of information. Not exactly rocket science, obviously, but the research led to a system in which different people’s communication methods could be categorized.

What Bandler and Grinder came up with was the idea that when it comes to verbal communication, people may be more dominant in one information processing system than another, and they identified three basic categories.

According to their study, about 65% of people are visually oriented in their learning and communication methods. A visually dominant person understands best when they can see what they need to learn or do. They also use certain key words when communicating.

For example, if you were to ask a visually dominate person the generic question “Do you understand?” their response will likely be something along the line of “I see what you mean”.

One aspect of this segment of the population is the obvious fact that those who have a tendency toward art or photography are visually oriented in their approach to communication. Also, many academic teachers, it turns out, are visual people. And, of course, this is means that since the majority of the population is a “match” with most of the elementary and secondary teachers in our public schools, a fair percentage of people get passing grades as they go through the system. (Stay with me here, I have a point to make about the technicians who will be attending your training sessions.)

The second group, which makes up about 15% of the population, is referred to as being dominantly auditory. This group of people learn and understand best when they can listen well.

If you were to ask a dominantly auditory person the “Do you understand” generic question, they response would likely be something like “I hear you.” Auditory people are often found in professions where voice and tone are a part of their job, such as music or in radio and T.V. work.

And then, there’s the third group that emerged from the development of the science of NLP (our people who may not have had a stellar experience in academia). They’re referred to as kinesthetic, which means that they learn and understand best when they can get their hands on things.

If you’ve been doing the arithmetic here, you’ve figured out that this group makes up 20% of the population. And, as you would expect, this is the group of people tend to become technicians, mechanics, machinists or welders, or go into other “hands-on” professions. The typical response to the “Do you understand?” question for this group….”Yeah, I’ve got a grip on that” or something on that order.

What these categories mean to us as facilitators is an opportunity to learn how to communicate effectively with those attending our training sessions. No matter what your tendency may be, if you understand that there are differences that can lead to a mismatch in communication, you can listen carefully to others, and, if necessary, adjust.

Or, better yet, with an understanding of the three categories, make sure to present important information from as many perspectives as possible:

“Focus on equipment voltage circuit first, then look closely at the control circuit.”

“Listen closely to the point I want to make about this particular printed circuit board.”

“You can grasp how this control works by understanding the input and output connections of the board.”

Another factor to consider about NLP is that people often tend to be dominant in one of the three major categories of verbal communication while using the other two as a kind of support system to make sure we understand things. When we understand this, it gives us a way to connect with those attending our session.

What happens when people don’t connect? The following is a conversation between two people in which there is a mismatch in their communication, and things are not going well.

(The dialogue of one person is shown in bold print, and the other is shown in italics.)

“You need to be able to see the results in advance.”

“I think I’ve got a feel for it.”

“But that’s not enough. You really have to picture how it will happen.”

“Oh, I know. You mean like putting your toe in the water before you jump in.”

“Well, no, I mean extending your field of vision to include all the possibilities.”

“Sure, you mean getting a firm grip on the potential problems and tackling them before they block your path.”

“Well, no, not exactly. You just need to focus on those trouble spots in order to have a good perspective on the potential problems.”

“That’s what I said. Taking care of those stumbling blocks so they won’t hit you from behind.”

“What’s wrong with you? Why can’t see what I’m saying?”

“What do you mean? I think I’ve got the problem well in hand.”

Likely, it didn’t take you long to figure out that, in our example, one person is dominantly visual and another is dominantly kinesthetic, and although they were expressing the same idea, their individual “language” was preventing them from understanding each other. There was no rapport between them.

Employing NLP skills in your training sessions can help you establish rapport with everyone in your training session, making them more comfortable with the interactive elements of your presentation (using meters to test components or connecting gauges to a system) that are such an important component of technician development.

 

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Jim