Teaching and A Better Way to Learn

by Linda Coors on February 4, 2014 · 0 comments

“Be quiet and listen!”
“How many times do I have to tell you…?”
“Shut up and do as I say.”

Many times, frustrated parents resort to these statements in the heat of the moment. They’re effective for short-term results, but we should be thinking of the long-term positive impact when teaching or giving instruction.

I believe using the words “observe and gather information” would be a more effective way for parents to capture their children’s attention as they correct their behavior. The same goes for us as we seek to help our employees perform more effectively in their positions. 

Here’s why: I am willing to guess that sometimes, in the heat of the moment, we make similar demands and then react in disgust when a month later, the behavior we thought we were changing appears again in the individual we had given our instructions to.

Frustration sets in for us — and for them — as we make the damaging proclamation, “You just don’t listen to anything I tell you!” It’s the most negative affirmation that we could slap someone with. It’s no surprise that the behavior does not change in an individual when we use this type of language in our teaching and training. We must be aware of the words we are using and the learning process we are engaging others in when trying to improve performance in people.

A Real-Life Example

Teaching and A Better Way to LearnIn the book Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, the authors tell a short story about a purchasing manager who started noticing a wide variety of styles and prices for gloves being bought in the many factories the company owned. Prices ranged from a couple of dollars up to $65, and the gloves were all styles and sizes.

Through further investigation, he found out that there was not a process to purchase gloves for the thousands of employees. If gloves were needed, someone simply ordered them and passed the cost on to the purchasing department. Based on the culture of the company, the purchasing manager knew that if he took the problem to the executive team, they would ask for reports and spreadsheets with data, and he still would not have caught their attention enough to implement a process to improve glove buying throughout the company.

He also knew human nature as much as he knew how to put together an Excel spreadsheet. He asked an intern in his department to gather as many pairs of gloves from the plants as possible and to tag each pair with the price that was paid for them. On the day of an executive team meeting, the purchasing manager took hundreds of gloves and piled them on the conference room table. When the meeting started, he did not say a word. People started picking up the gloves (observing) and noticing the price tag on each (gathering information). Finally one of them asked, “Why are these gloves here?” The purchasing manager simply said, “Oh, these are the gloves used in the factory and the price we pay for them.”

You can probably guess how the story ends. The executives demanded that a process be put into place immediately and that an improvement be made in order to save money on the thousands of pairs of gloves the employees were wearing. He could have simply tried to explain the need, but would they have listened? When he showed them and they had the opportunity to observe and gather information, then the executives were ready to act and make a decision — one that may have never been made without this learning approach.

My Opportunity to Observe and Gather Information

Teaching and A Better Way to LearnIt was a very exciting time at JP Horizons during the months we worked on creating A Better Way 2 Learn Financials. We partnered with a gentleman by the name of Frank Ross, whose experience and expertise is in helping all types and sizes of companies improve the profitability of their businesses by improving how leaders understand and apply the basics of financial management. One of the things that makes the program unique is a series of online videos where Frank, in his very personable style, explains a variety of topics that support the lesson plans.
To produce this program, we spent many long days in the JP Horizons conference room with Frank under lights and in front of a camera sharing four decades of expertise.

My role in all of this was simply to sit and observe, making sure the videos and content flowed with the lesson plans and that we kept them concise and on track with the topic of each lesson. In reality, I observed Frank going through each video (more than 70 recorded segments in all) and unknowingly gathered information in the process that has significantly improved my own understanding of financial management for my company.

My prior awareness and comprehension of financials was based on our monthly financial meetings, where our financial person would sit and explain the income statement, balance sheet, etc. At the moment, I would know what she was talking about, but a week later I was frustrated because the information hadn’t stuck with me to help me comprehend the report in front of me. It was no fault of our CPA; it was simply the process we were stuck in.

Sitting in the conference room as we created A Better Way 2 Learn Financials, I was able to gather information in a way that helped me discover the importance of that information for myself — just like the executives who made their own decisions about the gloves. Over the past weeks, I have become more conscious of things that impact the financials of my company. I’m already trying to make financial decisions based on the things I’ve learned just by listening to Frank and gathering information along the way.

What This Means to You


Teaching and A Better Way to LearnYour challenge from all of this is to provide the opportunity for those you lead or instruct to observe and gather information in order to find a better way to learn anything. When we do this, we are simply showing people we believe in them and trust that they are capable of taking the information to apply it and get the desired results.

Consider observing and gathering information yourself through the A Better Way 2 Learn Financials program. It’s had a hugely positive impact on those who have used it, and I think you’ll enjoy listening and “interacting” with Frank through the program.

Given the opportunity to observe, gather information, ask questions and gain knowledge leads to the confidence we all need to act and is essential to improve a skill or behavior. It’s really a better way to learn — and the foundation of everything we have done over the past 23 years at JP Horizons.

All of this leads to true wisdom, and that’s what all of us would strive for in life.




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