Using 4MAT in Coaching

Using 4MAT in CoachingMost of you know about 4MAT as an instructional design tool and rightly so.  It has been transforming the way people teach and train for many years now around the world.  However, the cycle of learning which 4MAT so simply captures is a model that can be used for so much more.

One approach that is used in many workplaces as a form of professional development is coaching for staff at all levels of the organisation.  Any google search will reveal multiple methods and approaches for how to have a coaching conversation with staff.  I wonder though have you ever thought of how 4MAT could provide a structure for this?  No?  Well – here we go!

Following the cycle as always, we begin in Quadrant One – helping the person being coached to clearly articulate the Why? of the situation or issue.  In Q1 the coach is giving the person being coached the opportunity to analyse the situation, thinking deeply about why is this situation occurring? Or why has this issue surfaced as one I need to address at the moment?  At this time the coach should also be listening well and speaking with empathy while asking questions that assist the person being coached to gain clarity from their personal perspective. In Q1 the person being coached should become clear on defining why I have this problem at all.  Taking time to develop an understanding of the why leads us more clearly into defining the real problem – it takes us to the deeper issue.

In Quadrant Two the coach can spend time defining the problem by identifying the facts through asking the right questions – being precise and clear and working only with things the person being coached knows.  By clarifying What? is known it begins to highlight what needs to be found out, what questions need to be asked, what has been done and what needs to be done next.  It clears the path for moving into Quadrant Three where a solution to the problem or a plan for how to approach the problem can be made.  A place we often want to start from but a place that if we spend the time in Q1 & Q2 first we can come up with a broader range of options and hopefully a more productive solution.

The key to Quadrant Three is for the coach not to take over.  In this part of the cycle the coach should be assisting the person being coached to design their own solution or action plan to solve the problem by helping them to cut to the heart of the matter and supporting plans that encourage taking action. Again asking the right questions including helping the person being coached to honestly reflect on whether they have the will or the capacity to do the actions being discussed are all a valuable part of being in the How? space.

Finally the Quadrant Four place is the opportunity to consider the consequences or implications of the action and think about ways of managing what happens next.  This will allow the person being coached to refine their plan or prepare themselves for the reactions that others might have to the action they are taking.  Q4 or the What If? space is where feeling is also strong, so it is a good time to check if the person being coached feels capable and confident to proceed with the plan they devised.  The coach’s role here is to provide encouragement and support to stimulate the person being coached into taking action prior to the next coaching session.

As a coaching session is a learning experience, using the 4MAT cycle during coaching can help to reveal the core of the problem and stimulate more creative solutions to solve it instead of rushing into judgement on what the problem is.  Where else have you used 4MAT as a framework?

A Styles Approach to Successful Communication

A styles communication

Many of the places I work in at the moment are complaining about communication. Either they think it happens poorly or not often enough, but even when the messages are delivered somehow they are still not clearly received. It sounds like it should be really simple but in reality clear communication is difficult to achieve.

The problem becomes obvious when we think about communication between 2 people. Sounds like it should be simple enough but when you think about it there are really 4 people in this conversation. First there is the person sending the message, but they have 2 different levels of communication going on. The first is the intention they have in their head about what they are going to say and the second is how they actually say it ie the words they choose, the tone it is delivered in, and even the level of emotion that the message is conveyed with can shape the message in quite different ways.

Then we have the person receiving the message and again there are 2 levels of communication happening for them as well. Firstly there is how they receive the message, as in: did they hear all the words that were said? However, even if the words were all heard loud and clear there is no guarantee that the message will be interpreted in the same way as intended by the sender depending on how they interpret the words, tone, emotion etc of the sender. So it is quite obvious how our messages get muddled up more often than not. Actually when you think about how often we communicate it is a wonder that we get anything across at all!

The trick is to know how to do something about this, and we believe that your personal learning preference shapes how you like to give and receive your communication. So here are a few of our suggestions:

  1. Pay attention

Most of us are so busy with everything going on that we are really not listening fully to others when they try to communicate with us, so it is important to be present in the conversation to optimise getting the message right. This is usually a strength for Type one learners, so is particularly relevant for learner types 2, 3 & 4.

  1. Practise how you are going to deliver the message

Make sure you are clear about the intent of your message and be aware of how you personally deliver it. Avoid disguising or expressing yourself in an indirect way in attempt to avoid conflict as a Type One learner might do, but also understand the impact of a message delivered bluntly in the mode more like a Type 3 learner might use. You might be thinking about the Goldilocks principle here.

  1. Stick to the facts

Some people (typically Type 2s) can communicate way too much information resulting in others not being clear on what you were really trying to say. So keep it short and simple to make sure that you get your message across.

  1. Check for understanding

Communication really hasn’t happened unless all parties walk away with a clear understanding of what the communication was all about, so before you walk away check that you actually received the message that was intended to be delivered.

The 4MAT model can provide a unique process for thinking about how to structure successful communication, so check out our next blog for more information.

The Impact of Technology on the Brain

4 Ways Technology is impacting on Your Brain – Implications for Learning?


While trawling through Facebook recently (as we all do) I came across an interesting article that claims that Steve Jobs limited the amount of technology his children had access to in the home. That really got me thinking. We take technology for granted in this day and age and are encouraged to use it more and more in our teaching and training environments, but is it time to stop and ask if this is a good thing and what impact it might be having on our brains?

We know that the brain changes in response to stimulus, so there has to be some impact of the internet and all our new technology on this amazing structure. There are a number of authors and researchers exploring this very topic and they present some compelling arguments for thinking about how much technology we engage with and more importantly how early we should be providing access for our children. Much of this information provides real food for thought for teachers and trainers and anyone who works in the learning space.

A scan of the literature seems to point to four major changes that are already observable:

  1. Attention Span – recent studies have shown that prolonged screen time actually reduces our capacity for attention, with author of The Shallows, Nicholas Carr lamenting “the brighter the software, the dimmer the user”. This is disturbing as we know that the brain only learns what it pays attention to, the ability to focus is the foundation to all learning. While books encouraged us to focus narrow and think deeply, the internet presents us with a bewildering array of information that we just skim over, changing our brains to work more at sourcing what we need by high speed skimming and scanning rather than focusing for hours on a single thing.


  1. Information Overload – we are exposed daily to more information than our ancestors used to be exposed to in a lifetime and it is physically impossible to remember it all. Digital natives tend to remember less through knowing the information themselves than remembering where the information can be found instead, making the internet our personal hard drive, or in brain terms, our repository for long term memory.


  1. Decision Making – the news isn’t all bad, research shows that we are becoming very skilful at decision making, able to make decisions much faster than we used to. However, the data does carry a warning – we tend to choose using shallow and superficial data.


  1. Memory & Learning – for me this was the ultimate concern and links in many ways with all the areas mentioned above. We are becoming learners who don’t bother with retaining information and facts, because it is always available at our fingertips through the internet and all of our hooked up devices. We suffer from information overload making it harder for the brain to determine what should be filed in long term memory – another change to our neurons. Much of the information online is trivial, so when we open a browser our brain gets ready to skim making it harder to stay on task and develop skills for deep learning or retention.


There is much food for thought in the latest information about technology and the brain and while some of this is speculation at this stage, more and more studies are showing how the brain lights up differently when we use technology compared to other learning methods, and this change will quickly impact the way the brain grows. Possibly the ultimate impact will be on our ability to be creative and use our imaginations. William Klemm, a neuroscience professor at Texas A&M University insists that “Creativity comes from a mind that knows, and remembers, a lot”. Even more important is to think about what this is doing to brains that are still growing and what the impact might be for the classrooms and the teachers of the future.

If you actually made it to the end of this blog without some bright, blinking lights carrying you away, I would love to hear your thoughts – what changes are you noticing in your learners as a result of technology?

4 Key Ways to Optimise Your Training for Type Four Learners

type4Our final group of learners in the series are the Type Four learners. Of all the styles, this group is the most active in the learning environment as they like to be actively involved in learning the information as well as using the information in a very practical way.

Type Fours are the big picture learners of the group. They really need to have an overview of the field before they can handle the detail and too much detail is not required. Enthusiastic about new things, they tend to learn through trial and error. Quite comfortable with failure they don’t mind taking risks while they search for hidden possibilities for using the information.

This group likes lots of variety and are adaptable to change. Type Fours regularly challenge the status quo and are good at generating creative solutions to problems. Their strength is to make things happen and they are most satisfied if that includes a big dose of innovation as well.

This type is quite gregarious and often is the life of the party, but can be seen by others as disorganised or chaotic. This is because they are comfortable trusting their intuition and can often reach an accurate conclusion but may not be able to provide a logical justification to support their position.

I guarantee that you will find all different types of learners in your training environment and knowing their strengths and weaknesses can assist in organising the learning space, selecting the appropriate range of activities and strategies for delivery and creative ways of organising the learning to both capitalise on their strengths and also stretch them… just a little.

So what can you do to help these types in your training?

  1. Give them the Content Overview right up front

This group of learners enjoy being in the learning situation but they are not comfortable with lots of detail and can be distracted if they have no idea where this is going or how things match up. As a trainer talking them through your content and providing them with guideposts along the way will help them to understand how individual sessions fit together in a way that will be meaningful for them.

  1. Be flexible with training manuals

Type Fours have a real creative flair so being restricted to linear note taking or fitting an answer in a box for the entire program is frustrating for them. Mix it up with blank pages and colourful spaces for them to mind map, use other graphic organisers, draw pictures or capture the information in whatever way they like. They will retain more as a result.

  1. Include opportunities that are fun

Type Fours love having fun in the training room (but really don’t we all?) so including unusual ways to engage with the material really stimulate their thinking. Instead of a written quiz, run a “Who wants to be a Millionaire” game, instead of asking them to produce a written presentation supply materials that let them make a 3D construct that represents their learning etc.


  1. Provide lots of time for interaction

These learners learn best when they are doing something with others, so the more chance to talk through and interact with other learners the better. Sitting still for long periods and listening to lots of talk are challenging for them so make your training as interactive as you can.

4 Key Ways to Optimise Your Training for Type Three Learners


Continuing in this series on how to optimise your training to provide environments that support different types of learners, we now move on to look at the 4MAT Type Three Learners.

Type Threes are down-to-earth problem solvers who are action and skills oriented. This style is a very hands-on type, so information is only valuable if it has immediate usefulness and application. As a result they prefer “just in time” learning and like to get to the practical details of how to make things work as quickly as possible. This type likes e-learning where they are not constrained by others in how quickly they can work through the material.

Type Threes are very focused on results, so they tend to get right to the point when communicating with others.   They have limited tolerance for “fuzzy” ideas or people who don’t know what they are talking about and will be quick to decide if you have something to offer them or not. With a strong desire to understand how things work they need hands-on experience, preferably in a real world context before they really understand something.

I guarantee that you will find all different types of learners in your training environment and knowing their strengths and weaknesses can assist in organising the learning space, selecting the appropriate range of activities and strategies for delivery and creative ways of organising the learning to both capitalise on their strengths and also stretch them… just a little.

So what can you do to help these types in your training?

  1. Provide them with an idea of where the training is going as soon as practical

This group of learners also like information presented in an ordered and logical way, but not down to the minute detail. Since they want to get moving quickly, as a trainer you need to give them an idea of where the content is going so they know how long they have to wait until they get to the bit they are interested in.

  1. Build in opportunities to do something with the information as you go along

Too much talk, lecture or reading will bore this type most of all, so to keep them engaged make sure you include regular places to stop and do something with the content you are working on. Whether that includes having a chat to someone near you about the implications of the last piece of information, answering some questions in their training manual or some sort of activity where they use the content in some way, regular opportunities to apply what they are learning, while they are learning is helpful.

  1. Let them choose a task and how to deliver on it

These learners are results focussed so they excel at putting a plan into action. Where possible provide the opportunity for them to demonstrate their learning to you in a practical way, so including lots of options to complete a task will get them interested. Of course the more active and real world you can make this task the better.

  1. Organise the content in a way that lets them move ahead

Type Three Learners work fast; they are always the ones that are finished first and look ahead in the manual. Providing a range of tasks to complete (so long as they don’t look like more work for no reason) can be useful. Make sure once you get everyone else together that they have opportunity to share the extra tasks they completed.

Optimising your Training for Type Two Learners

Last blog we looked at some ways to optimise your training to ensure better learning and retention of information for students who have a Type One learning preference. So in this post its time to focus on Type Two Learners.

Type Two Learners in the 4MAT model are very comfortable with data, facts and information. In fact they are the most detailed learner type out of all the 4 styles. They like to be thorough and can cope with very small bits of data. Their strength is to be able to organise that information in a logical and sequential way. They operate by analysis and value information that comes from an expert or trusted source.

They are comfortable working on their own and probably enjoyed traditional learning situations.

Type Twos are the most sedentary of learners as everything happens in the mind. They are quite comfortable listening to someone talk about or present their ideas, and then take time to think that through or write about it on their own. With no strong desire to actually do anything with the information, Type Twos love learning for learning’s sake.

Types Twos also have a stronger focus on the facts and data than on people, so this style is all about the information at hand. Creating concepts and models is a particular strength. They are very thorough and industrious and will go back to the facts if the situation calls for it. Sticklers for fairness, they will let the data decide!

I guarantee that you will find all different types of learners in your training environment and knowing their strengths and weaknesses can assist in organising the learning space, selecting the appropriate range of activities and strategies for delivery and creative ways of organising the learning to both capitalise on their strengths and also stretch them… just a little.

So what can you do to help these types in your training?

  1. Organise information in a logical sequence

This group of learners like information presented in an ordered and logical way. Being comfortable with details, they like information presented to a meaningful depth. Covering the content in a more random “as it evolves” way or allowing the group to dictate how the content is being revealed can be very frustrating for this learning type and cause them to switch off.

  1. Be very familiar with your content

Type Twos will have studied a topic to death if they are presenting it and they expect that you have too as their trainer. Make sure you know your topic well and have a few current sources at hand that go beyond the content you are teaching. Never make up an answer on the spot. These learners will be far more content if you admit you don’t know and bring the researched answer to the next session.

  1. Provide opportunities for solo as well as group work

These learners like working on their own as well as working with others. The need to always work in a team can be draining for this style so make sure you have a balance of solo and team work activities in your training.

  1. Present information in sufficient depth

Type Two Learners like detailed information, so going an inch deep and a mile wide is not satisfying for them as learners. If you have nor provided enough information for them they will often ask you for further details, check your sources e.g. ask for the research, or ask for further reading if the topic interests them, so being prepared for this is a great idea.

4 Key Ways to Optimise Your Training for Type One Learners


Last blog I said we would give you some hints about optimising your training to ensure better learning and retention of information by your students. So in this post let’s take a little time to look at the sorts of learning environments that Type One Learners prefer. Remember that we all have aspects of each style, it is just that some of us have a higher preference for one type than another.

In the 4MAT model – Type One Learners prefer to learn through direct experience and then listening and sharing ideas with others. They need to be personally involved in their learning and most importantly they need to have that learning matter to them – the more deeply the better.

Type Ones like to have time to reflect on any ideas, but particularly new ideas before being asked to comment and can feel stressed when they are put on the spot. They are thoughtful and are very good at observing others. They value harmony in their immediate environment, both at work, at home and during training and thrive in working with small groups. Relationships are key, so if they don’t particularly like or get along with you as the teacher or trainer, or if the people they are working with are argumentative or difficult to work they might just find it difficult to concentrate and their learning will be affected.

I guarantee that you will find all different types of learners in your training environment and knowing their strengths and weaknesses can assist in organising the training environment, selecting the appropriate range of activities and strategies for delivery and creative ways of organising the learners to both capitalise on their strengths and also stretch them, just a little.

So what can you do to help these types in your training?

1. Start with an introductory activity

How you start your training is critical for this group of learners. They need to feel a connection to you as the trainer and to the rest of the group they will be working with to truly engage with your content. As I have mentioned in previous posts though, you are looking for something that allows the group to share but is also closely related to the content of the training.

2. Allow them reflection time

Give them time to think about their answer before putting them on the spot. Giving the group a heads up that responses are expected after a task can really help.

3. Provide opportunities for group work

These learners enjoy working with others. It helps their ideas to form by talking them through in a group – so make sure you allow sufficient discussion time.

4. Step in quickly to deal with sarcasm and put- downs

Sometimes a group can develop interesting ways of working with each other and it can seem like it is a bit of a joke to use put-downs or sarcasm between colleagues. However, this needs to be monitored carefully as this type of learner can feel like a target when this is going on and will shut down to cope or stay out of the firing line, closing down their learning along with it!