Some things we learn from books, by going to classes, watching presentations, listening to lectures. Other things we learn from people by observing, analyzing, imitating, practicing. For example, we can learn from people:
- how to communicate well,
- how to engage your audience,
- how to appear professional,
- how to explain complex things in a simple way,
- how to ask good questions,
- how to network,
- how to make people feel valued and respected,
- how to motivate others,
- how to make a joke and when it is appropriate,
- how to defuse intense emotions.
So how do you learn from people? Here are a few questions and suggestions to guide you:
- What skills do you want to learn? What results do you want to achieve?
- Who will be your model? Do you know a person who is good at what you are trying to learn? If you personally know them, enlist their support, ask them questions. But don't forget that you can also learn from public figures by observing their actions, listening to their speeches, reading their works.
- In what situations do you need to observe that person? In other words, what is the context that triggers the desired behavior?
- While observing your model in action, decide what the important differences are that make the behavior effective. What does this person do that others don’t? In contrast, is there anything that the person you are modeling avoids doing that others tend to do? What clues should you pay attention to?
- Can you recognize any patterns in the desired behavior?
- Are there specific steps or procedures that the person is following?
- Is there anything unique about the way that person interacts with others?
- Can you tell anything about the person’s assumptions, values, attitudes from his or her behavior?
- Now it is time to create your model of the effective performance. Can you come up with a strategic list of behaviors that you can imitate?
- Try out your model in the relevant situations to see if you can achieve the desired result. If not, how can you revise your model?
- Keep trying it out, fine-tune your strategy as necessary.
You need to be mindful and reflective when you learn from others. It also takes discipline and patience to follow through with your plan. The benefit is that you can improve your performance by being observant and willing to try something different. I encourage you to keep your eyes open for other people’s talents. Ask them questions, learn from them, and you might just add a few gifts to your own bag of tricks. Who are the people you'd love to learn from?