Work Traits

Kinesthetic Learning Style

Kinesthetic Learning Style

A kinesthetic learning style is especially beneficial for projects and tasks where you can roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty, rather than observing at a high level.
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What does it mean to have a kinesthetic learning style?

When you need to make a decision, you don’t want to read information, listen to lectures, or review charts and data. You’d much rather personally experience a concept, process, or person in order to draw a firm conclusion.

That’s because you’re most convinced when you’re able to do something yourself. You’ve been known to say, “I won’t know until I try it” and you’re always looking for ways that you can be more hands-on before reaching a decision. 

Your high propensity for doing gives you great perspective, but it can also mean it’s difficult for you to make a choice in circumstances where you’re unable to experience something on your own.

In F4S: Doing

In F4S: Doing

The level of importance for you to personally experience something before being convinced and making a decision about it.

The level of importance for you to personally experience something before being convinced and making a decision about it.

For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.

Aristotle
Aristotle

Leaders who have a kinesthetic learning style

Kristen Hadeed

Kristen Hadeed

If you haven’t heard of Kristen Hadeed, she’s the founder and CEO of Student Maid, a cleaning company that exclusively employs students. 

In a talk she gave in 2014, she explains that she realized she needed to change her approach to leadership when 45 of her 60 employees quit. “That’s when I realized that leadership isn’t a privilege to do less,” she said. “Leadership is a responsibility to do more.” But she didn’t learn this important lesson until she rolled up her sleeves and experienced it first-hand.

Hadeed herself has a true familiarity with the ins and outs of her business. As she explains on the Student Maid website, she started by cleaning houses after class herself. From there, she was able to grow from the ground up because she knew exactly what her operation involved.

Tony Hsieh

Online shoe retailer, Zappos, is often cited as a glowing example of positive company culture — and much of that comes down to the business’ leadership.

Tony Hsieh served as Zappos’ CEO for 21 years. During that time, he didn’t lead from an ivory tower. He was always willing to roll up his sleeves, pitch in, and do the dirty work. During the holidays, everyone on the Zappos team would participate in answering phone calls. That included Hsieh himself. 

In doing so, he not only lived up to one of the company’s 10 core values (“be humble”), but he also got a first-hand grasp on the demands placed on his customer service team.

Cheryl Bachelder

As the former CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Chicken, Bachelder is credited with shifting the entire company to a servant leadership model — where they placed the majority of their focus on helping their franchise owners grow.

She knew she couldn’t make decisions about the best way to do that without getting boots on the ground and experiencing their restaurant locations firsthand. She toured numerous Popeyes locations to experience first-hand their operations and gather their feedback. 

With that information, she was able to identify ways to better support franchise owners. That attitude is summed up in her quote, “I must know you to grow you.”

The benefits of kinesthetic learning style

Comprehensiveness

Learning by doing is very thorough. You uncover systems and roadblocks that you might not notice through reading, watching, or listening.

Confidence

Trying something yourself gives you a solid grasp on the ins and outs of a person, process, or concept, which means you can feel extra self-assured in your decision.

Retention

When you experience something, you’re far more likely to remember it and be able to recall that information later.

The blind spots of kinesthetic learning style

Efficiency

If you’ve already had personal experience with something, you’re able to make a quick decision. But if not, testing something out yourself before drawing a conclusion requires quite a bit of time.

Uncertainty

Sometimes there isn’t an opportunity for you to do something yourself and you’ll need to make a decision with the limited information you have. That can leave you feeling wary and unconfident about choices that aren’t supported by a personal experience.

Stubborn

If you’re unable or unwilling to make a choice unless you’ve tackled something personally, you might come across as obstinate and difficult to work with — especially if team members need you to make a speedy decision.

How to have a kinesthetic learning style

1) Try things first.

If you want to learn by doing, you need to start doing. Figure out how you can test something out yourself.

For example, if a team member is complaining about a sticking point in a piece of software, login to the platform, try to complete that task, and see if you hit the same issue. Or, if you want to get a better grasp of your customer onboarding process, walk through it yourself.

Remember, learning by doing requires action. You don’t always need to wait for permission to give something a try.

2) Opt for a demonstration.

When teaching or learning, you typically lean on written reports or even videos. Even if that’s your natural inclination, challenge yourself to use demonstrations instead.

When learning a new process at work, ask that team member if you can do it yourself with their guidance. Or, if you’re educating others on a subject, show them how it works instead of telling them.

Those hands-on experiences will get you more comfortable with a kinesthetic learning style.

3) Take walking meetings.

Many educators and experts say that kinesthetic learners like to move their bodies while they familiarize themselves with a new concept. Again, it likely has something to do with the fact that they’re doing something. 

Give this a try yourself by taking a walking meeting. You might find that you appreciate the opportunity to put your body in motion while digging into important conversations.

4) Commit to some trial and error.

Learning by doing isn’t foolproof, and you’re going to make some mistakes. Don’t let that deter you, and remember that trial and error is all a part of the process.

Plus, that’s one of the great things about kinesthetic learning: Those lessons stick with you, and you’re far less likely to make the same blunder twice.

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