Sunday 31st May 08:49

Coaching: 5 Levels of Learning

Imagine that you've just seen one of your team players giving a really awful presentation to a customer. The employee knows it went poorly, so does the customer, and so do you. You don't want a repeat and your knee-jerk reaction is to put them on the first Presentation skills course that comes along. But wait a minute. Are you sure this will do the trick? And if you're not sure, how can you be sure of finding the right solution to help them?

Fortunately, there is an excellent model from Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) that can help you. It's based on Robert Dilts' "Neuro-logical Levels", first laid out in his book "Changing Belief Systems with NLP". In this book, Dilts identifies 5 different levels of learning, each of which will require a different response from you.

The 1st Level of Learning: Environment

The 1st level of learning is what Dilts calls, "Environment". This defines the external context of the learning. In the case of the employee whose presentation just bombed, it could be that he or she rarely gets to do presentations in their job except when a customer asks for one. In this case, your learning response is to be a Guide. For example, you could suggest that they spend more time in an environment where they get to practise presentations, such as joining the local branch of Toastmasters.

The 2nd Level of Learning: Behaviour

The 2nd level of learning is Behaviour, meaning the things that your team player did or didn't do in performing the task. For example, they may have used poor body language with no or little eye contact with their audience. If this is the case, your learning role is that of Coach. As Coach, you could suggest that when your team player next tries out a presentation, real or in practice, he or she looks up at the audience for 90% of the time. You can then sit in one one of these presentations and see how well they do with feedback from you afterwards.

The 3rd Level of Learning: Capability

The 3rd level of learning is Capability, what the person knows or can do. In our case of the team player who has yet to master presentations, he or she may have made some simple mis-statements about your company's product lines. If you identify that this is the area of under-performance, then you need to intervene in the role of Teacher and bring him or her up to speed.

The 4th Level of Learning: Belief

The 4th level of learning is Belief, which is what the person thinks about the situation. If your team player has a set of beliefs that says that presentations are hard, that nobody does them well, and they're just like everyone else, there's every chance that they'll be stuck at a mediocre or even poor performance level. In this case, your role becomes one of Mentor and your job is to help them to see that they're beliefs have no basis in reality.

The 5th Level of Learning: Identity

The 5th, and last, level of learning is Identity, which answers deep questions of "who I am". If you were to talk to your under-performing employee, he or she might say, "I'm no good at presenting. My parents weren't any good, nor were theirs. It's just not something we can do." In this case, the answer is for you to perform the role of Sponsor. Robert Dilts says that the role of Sponsor in learning is to awaken and safeguard potential in others. It means that you commit yourself to promoting something that lies inside another person but hasn't yet materialised into its fullest potential yet. You don't do anything in particular. You are there for them as a reference point.

There are a number of important points about the "5 Levels of Learning" model:

1. as you go up the levels, the issues become harder to address.
2. as you go up the levels, the roles become harder to perform.
3. you must ensure you match the issue with the role. Providing sponsorship when someone needs advice won't lead to learning, nor will coaching someone who doesn't get much change to practise.

Internet Resource: Robert Dilt's "5 Levels of Learning"

Ed Muzio is CEO of Group Harmonics and author of the book, "Make Work Great". In this 4-minute youtube video , Ed takes you through the 5 steps of Robert Dilts' model from the straightforward barrier of Environment to the much more complex barrier of Identity. Not only will you learn the value of this model, if you are a manager, trainer or coach, you'll also enjoy his engaging presentational style.