Demonstration: Show Me!

Webster defines an “orbit” as the path of one body around another; the first body is shaped and tugged by the other, influenced into their movements and actions. We may not be in space, but the influence we as leaders hold over our employees, team members or even kids is very similar. We mold them and place them on our paths using our influence. Hence the name of Dan’s book, ORBiT: The Art and Science of Influence.


Over the past few months we’ve been exploring the six tenets of ORBiT, which, in addition to being a best-selling book, is a method of influence and behavioral change Dan has been perfecting for years.


Step one: Establish Context. It’s integral that leaders explicitly outline their intentions with their students so that they know what to expect, and also so that they understand and connect with the purpose. Step two: Negative Simulation. By beginning with a negative simulation, you establish the flaws in the former behaviors and root those flaws in reality. Step three: Positive Simulation. Students have seen what not to do, and you’ve created a blank slate to instill new, positive behaviors.


And now, step four: Demonstration.


Though at first glance positive simulation and demonstration may seem similar, they actually differ greatly. During a positive simulation, you take the lead and exemplify the proper behavior and execution. A demonstration, on the other hand, puts the student in the forefront.


This step is absolutely necessary in confirming the absorption of these lessons in the student. By asking your student to demonstrate this new knowledge, you can easily track their progression and note any areas that may still need improvement. If you don’t ask your students for a demonstration, the students could have gapes and holes in their understanding of the concept, leaving them susceptible to even more mistakes or misunderstandings.


Although you could simply ask “Do you understand?” that approach is inherently flawed. Simply asking that question reveals nothing and asks nothing of the student. Throughout ORBiT you’ve been in control; it’s time to pass the baton and see what they’ve learned, plus legitimize their own perception of their roles.


As you approach this step of ORBiT, it’s important to help your student feel as comfortable as possible. Dan suggests posing the demonstration as if it’s the logical next step in the exercise (because it is!). But stage fright exists for a reason. Their hesitation surrounding a demonstration could stem from any number of misgivings, including a reluctance to change, confusion about the subject, or fear of failure. Understand that their hesitation is legitimate, and do what you can to help them along the way.


Your role in the demonstration is three-fold: you’re an actor (though not the leading man or lady), you’re a coach (you’re evaluating their performance), and you’re also the director of the simulation. It’s important that you step into each of these roles to make sure you can properly evaluate your student.


If the demonstration goes well, that’s great! Time to move on to step five. But if not? Here’s why:


1.     Your student may still not be aligned with your ideas.
Remember step one, establish context? This is when it you created buy-in with your student to make sure they were on board, but there’s a chance that didn’t carry through.

2.     They don’t yet have the skills.
You’ve bombarded your student with new information and it can be overwhelming. But with patience, encouragement and assistance, they can integrate these new skills into their vocabulary.


It’s important to learn to recognize each of these hold-ups and address them directly. With perseverance and understanding, you can amend them both and help your student to demonstrate their new skills in the best way possible.