Show, Don’t Tell

ellenpatnaude  |  February 15, 2013
last updated

Our working lives are filled with people telling us stuff. Everyone has a message about how to work smarter, manage time better, solve problems more creatively, do more with less, etc. From our boss to upper management to well-intentioned training staff, it seems that someone is always telling us something we should do differently in order to be more successful.

The problem with all this well-intentioned talking is just that – it’s talking. Not doing. And it doesn’t necessarily help us learn. The following video is a funny example of this process in action.

Show Don't Tell

Your Audience Will Learn More If They Are Doing, Not Listening.

Take as an example two pilots learning to fly planes. Both attend a 30-day course that will certify them to fly planes at the end. One course is very technical and involves looking at blueprints of the plane, reviewing detailed drawings of the control panel and cockpit instrumentation, and lengthy explanations of how to fly planes.

The other course does none of that. Instead, from day one, it puts the pilot-to-be inside of the plane, touching the instrumentation, becoming familiar with what buttons control what, and even practicing driving the plane around on the tarmac. After a few days of that, the instructor takes the student pilot up in flight, gradually giving over more and more control to the student until he or she is flying the plane themselves.

For additional reading on this topic, you might take a look at “Experiencial Learning Is Team Building.“.

Which pilot would you rather have flying your plane?

The reason that the second program is so much more appealing and effective is that it teaches by experience. It allows the students to interact with the information and material being taught through hands-on experience. It shows – not tells.

Your Team Will Learn More By Doing As Well.

Great team building programs do the same thing for your team. Instead of lecturing your group about how they need to engage in better communication practices, share their resources, share their information, get out of their silos, draw on each other’s strengths, think more creatively about solving problems, etc., a great team building program is designed to give your team an experience that shows the participants that they can only be successful in completing the activities if they do all of those things. No one resists the lessons of the event because no one is shoving the message down their throats through verbal assault!

For additional reading on this topic, you might take a look at “Classroom Training Does Not Have to Be Boring.“.

Next time you have an important lesson or message for your team about how they can be more successful, think about how much more impactful that message will be if you show instead of telling. Good luck!

author ellenpatnaude
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Ellen Patnaude is an instructor for The Leader's Institute ® and president of LeadQuine. She is based in the Detroit, Michigan Region. She is a specialist in team building events and presentation skills seminars.
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