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Learning and Working Style in a Business Setting

Learning and Working Style in a Business Setting

October 05, 2011 Susan Rundle

I met this young man recently during a leadership workshop where the BE Survey was utilized as the underpinning for self-awareness and leadership principles. After the session, I had the opportunity to meet with an owner of a company who was willing to share his experience once he understood the importance of being fully cognizant of the diversity of individual learning and productivity strengths.

"As a young manager, I did not respect the particular preferences of individuals. Over time, this led to conflict and disenchantment on the part of my employees, betraying a complete lack of empathy on my part. I could not understand, for example, why everybody in the office would not love to hear music I piped in from my system throughout the office. At the commencement of a new year, I would sit down all of the employees and we would go through a series of workshops to help us determine how to move forward as a company and what goals we would set. As one of the exercises, we would do a typical simple assessment of our successes and failures, along with areas of continued improvement. I was bewildered and angered by the response of one employee who called our greatest achievement as a company during the past year getting rid of the music in the office. I felt this was a flippant and disrespectful response that ignored all the good things we had accomplished that year. When I asked him why he listed such a trivial matter, his response was simply: "It wasn't trivial to me. I really mean this." I don't think I have actually reconciled my feelings about that response (which was some 14 years ago) until I read Rundle's article and considered the information presented. But today it makes so much more sense, along with the many other things my employees did to make their work environment tolerable for them. Their objection to florescent lights used to drive me crazy. "Light is light," I would say. I never considered that these were legitimate concerns that were being expressed that probably manifested a particular learning and/or productivity style of each individual. I always felt I was democratic in my style of management, but I guess it was only if people agreed with my choices. These lessons have truly opened my eyes to the uniqueness of each learner and how their preferences affect their productivity. I think the statement that brings it home is this: "In a controlled, one-size-fits-all environment demotivation ensues." A younger version of me would have responded, "So what! Go someplace else." Today, I am learning to respect and celebrate these differences and thus get the most of the indispensable uniqueness of each individual."