November 30, 2021

181: How to Foster Self-Directed Learning with Tom Tonkin

From a young age, much of our lives have been directed by others. Our parents, teachers, and other adults tell us what to do and how to do it. In many cultures, it’s not until adulthood that we are truly able to be self-directed, and by that point, it can be difficult for some of us to know how to show up most effectively without the constant direction from others. Yet self-direction is an important, and often underutilized, skill in today’s workplace.  

Today’s guest is Dr. Tom Tonkin. Tom is an award-winning researcher, author, and CEO and Founder of The Conservatory Group with 25 years of experience in corporate America under his belt. Tom’s organization provides high-touch services to business executives that want to improve themselves, their team, and their environment. Tom is also involved at an executive level in two organizations with DE&I at the forefront, SAMI and Diversity Equity Inclusion.

Tom and I talk about variations in how our brains work and different styles, how that impacts how we collaborate with our team members, how our brains like to learn, and a lot more.

Members of the Modern Manager community get the Self-Directed Learner Assessment. Updated with the latest research, this resource will help you improve your self-direction. Get it when you join the Modern Manager community.

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Read the related blog article: How Managers Can Support More Effective Learning


Key Takeaways:

  • There is a spectrum of preference from completely self-directed (independent) to completely directed (dependent) when it comes to learning and managing ourselves.
  • Managers who like to command, tend to work well with people who prefer to be directed. Managers who like to be hands-off, tend to work well with people who are highly independent. 
  • Managers need to learn to work with all types of people regardless of style or preference.
  • We learn soft skills and hard skills differently because they live in different parts of the brain. 
  • When we teach soft skills of dealing with people, we need to teach through roleplaying.
  • When roleplaying, it’s important the conditions be as real as possible e.g. no psychological safety, similar context, so people can learn through real practice. 
  • Hard skills can be taught through more traditional learning methods and practice modes. 
  • If we increase our desire, initiative, persistence, and resourcefulness, we can strengthen our conative brain and  learn new skills.

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