In our first article we put forward the view (supported by studies) that much leadership development isn’t working . I just came across yet another study this time from from Direct Dimensions International (DDI) conducted in 20111from 2500 organizations where only 34% of leaders indicated their leadership development was effective and a rather small 18% of organizations thought they had an adequate leadership pipeline.
We have already discussed the importance of self directed learning and creating the conditions that foster intrinsic motivation. ( If you missed it you can read part 1 of this article right here)
In this article I want to talk about the triumph of process over content. So what do I mean by “process over content” in the context of developing leadership programmes? Simply I think it is the assumption that great content packed into a short as a time as possible is how we create transformation in our leaders.
What we sometimes forget is that human beings are complex and developing leadership capabilities is not the same as delivering a project on time or launching a new product. Human beings learn in different ways and not only that they don’t always learn what we expect them too either. We are still surprised after many years what learners highlight as their takeaways when we do a learning review on a leadership programme. It is a great reminder that neuroscience informs us all our brains are different, more than that they are unique.
The process of human learning and development is not linear , a bit messy and still somewhat mysterious.
Being content led and force feeding ideas runs the risks of disengaging the learner. We are organic beings and not putting enough attention on creating the learning processes that support a rich and nurturung learning environment leads to sub-optimal learning and leadership development. So here in our view is one of the most important supportive learning processes to balance the content on your leadership development programmes.
Get People to Collaborate and Grow Together:
Our brains are heavily wired towards social connectiveness with others. There is some truth in the saying “it takes a whole village to raise a child” and it applies equally to adults and their learning. In a supportive community where trust allows the safe sharing of ideas and access to different perspectives the rate of learning can be exponential. It is also potentially a place where you can talk about things that you just wouldn’t feel comfortable in discussing with your boss or immediate peers.
Leaders grow best in a leadership community. There’s an exponential impact when people have the opportunity to share and learn from one another in a safe environment where they can be open and authentic. One of the most frequent comments we receive from participants is how much they appreciate the opportunity to discover “I’m not the only one facing a particular challenge.”
You can achieve this leadership community by creating cohorts in you leadership programmes and purposefully creating opportunities for people to become more at ease with each other. You can also design in processes to allow others such as peers. line managers and executives to become at least part time members of that leadership community as they step in and put of the leadership programme at different times.
You can support the effectiveness of these leadership communities with targeted communication skills training on questioning and clarifying and coaching and mentoring skills. One specific example of this is when Leadership By Design partnered with the New Zealand Coaching & Mentoring Centre to provide group mentoring skills training as part of a larger leadership development programme we designed. The evaluation data clearly told us that this had been a great learning support to the vast majority of the leadership learners with most of them continuing their peer mentoring sessions after the end of the formal leadership programme. It has been a great reminder to us of the importance of collaboration in learning programmes.
And it is actually getting easier to support collaboration!
Many leaders are becoming more familiar with social networking and now there are lots of options to create collaborative distance learning spaces that encourage reflection and connection. If you are not already using your intranet or thinking about developing internal wikis, blogs and other forums where people can ask questions and share useful information you are missing out on valuable learning opportunities.
The modern work environment is busy and continuously changing. To learn best leaders need to find time to reflect and integrate their knowledge and practice and talking with others might just turn out to be one of the best possible ways to do that. Another benefit is that in order to share our own experiences with others we have to find the words to summarize and capture our own meanings; this by itself can lead to greater clarity and self awareness.
Learning is at least in part social and it turns out listening to others views and ideas gives us a wider range of experiences to reflect about and gain insights and motivation.
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