Are you engaging all of your team?

If you coach, manage or lead a team of people it is inevitable that you will be faced with a group of people who have different preferred styles of learning. That fact presents you with a challenge. That challenge is how to engage all of the group by using all of the learning styles. Failing to do this could result in failing to fully engage the group, resulting in some of your team not learning what it is you intended them to learn.

The educational psychologist Dr Bernice McCarthy found that we fall into four different categories when it comes to learning. Here’s a very simple overview:

Type One: The “Why” people.

The ‘why’ group prefer imaginative learning through feeling and watching, seeking personal associations and meaning through involvement. They are the sort of people who learn by making connections and particularly like the question, “why?”.

Type Two: The “What” people.

These are the analysts amongst us. They like facts, processing information and thinking through concepts before formulating ideas and opinions. These guys like to ask the “what?” questions.

Type Three: The “How” people.

This group likes to learn by doing. They prefer common-sense learning and are not concerned by theory, they just want to try things out.  They learn by thinking and doing, by experimenting, and tinkering. They are very good at applying ideas and love the question “How?”.

Type Four: The “What if” people.

The final group is particularly interested in the consequences of learning something and what would happen if they did something or didn’t do something. They seek hidden possibilities, explore ideas, learn by trial and error and self-discovery. They are excellent at creating original adaptations and modifications. The key question for these guys is “what if?”

To be a really effective coach it is important to cover each of the learning types. The way to do this is by planning your coaching session accordingly. For each skill or drill you want to teach, prepare the session in a way that it answers the questions “Why?”, “What?”, “How?” and “What if?”. To be most effective it is important to then deliver the session in that order.

People who prefer to know why? tend to switch off until they are given a good reason for listening, so start with this style first. The next stage is to tell people the details. This is the what? phase and covers the facts, instructions and tactics. The next stage is the how? part and probably signals the start of the practical part of the session. The final part of the session should be looking at the consequences of learning the skill or drill and what possibilities it opens up.

Following this system is a great way of structuring your coaching sessions and provides a very useful framework to work from.

You can find out more about Dr McCarthy’s learning system by visiting:

Good luck!


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