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The best kept leadership development secret ever?


Simon Leckie, Development Consultant for LSN, lets us in on the details of the most powerful leadership development solution that few businesses seem to know about… 

 If there was a way to solve workplace problems that had so far defied all attempts to resolve them, would you want to know more?

If there was a way to draw on the experience of other managers and gain new ideas and perspectives, would your ears prick up?

If there was a way to develop your leadership and management skills so that you and those around you were completely exhilarated to be at work, would you want to find out more?

Let’s be honest – of course you would. No sound-minded person would say “no”. We all have problems. If there’s anyone reading who did say ‘no’ then seek professional help quickly, you’re probably in denial!

So here’s the secret: it’s called action learning. Hey, keep reading; don’t let the name put you off. It’s a highly practical and proven approach to solving problems and developing leadership skills; what’s more, most businesses haven’t switched on to it yet. Why it’s still such a secret is beyond me because I’ve seen firsthand just how powerful it is.

Action learning has more impact than any other form of leadership development, and here’s the really crazy part – it costs next to nothing to do.

  • It treats you, the person taking part, as having the expertise and, with guidance from others, helps you figure out the answers for yourself.
  • With support and development, you and your people can facilitate action learning for yourselves.
  • You choose what you want to work on. Each person in the group will have their own work issue to resolve and their own personal development goals, so there’s no ‘one size fits all’ development programme or rigid workshop by workshop agenda.

Action learning takes the simple idea that you learn best by doing, and provides a structured approach to help you work with others to generate ideas. Typically, a group of people get together, each person talks about something they are trying to ‘fix’ and - through the support and challenge of the other group members - comes up with their own ideas on how to fix their problem. Each person then goes away, takes action and sees what happens. Everybody then meets up again to review where they’re at and generate more ideas. It’s simple really, but it’s incredibly effective!

We can help you gain the understanding and skills to facilitate action learning. After that, all you will need is a room, a flipchart and people who really want to improve their daily working lives.

You may be wondering why – if it’s that simple - you would need any input from us. Well, in order for action learning to reach its full potential, there are some key things you need to know about as a facilitator:

  • Ethical views, beliefs, attitudes, values, language and authority in a facilitation role.
  • Creating the necessary, safe and confidential conditions for engaging in effective action learning.
  • The importance of agreeing the expectations, processes and boundaries of action learning with all participants.
  • Identifying potential barriers in the organisation and developing strategies for overcoming them.

Once you have had a taste of action learning, you will be amazed at where it will take you!

Simon Leckie, Development Consultant, LSN
Follow Simon on Twitter
Contact LSN

2 Responses

  1. Okay but …

     Okay, but with training budgets tight (aren’t they always!) and organisations seeking online delivery to save on costs, how can an ‘action learning’ approach, which (unless I’m very mistaken) seems a practical hands on real time small group approach, gain traction?

  2. Best kept secret…

    There’s no doubt that training budgets are under considerable pressure in the current economic (grim) climate and we have seen a lot of interest in online learning and other approaches as organisations seek to reduce their spend. This drive to deliver greater impact for  training spend has actually helped us to get action learning onto people’s radar because action learning is a low cost, high impact and sustainable solution. Through relatively low cost investment organisations can run action learning programmes and the people that take part can then be developed to facilitate action learning within the organisation. It can work like this:

    1 – initial action learning set of six managers undertake action learning and as a result not only solve a real problem and develop their leadership skills, they become familiar with action learning

    2 – The same six managers, with minimal development, can themselves then facilitate action learning so if each manager facilitates a set with a new group of six managers you now have 42 people who have been able to benefit from action learning.

    3 – As each programme of action learning finishes, the participants can go on to facilitate further sets.

    All this internal capability can be delivered as a result of an initial action learning set and some top-up skills development. Don’t forget too, that while all this is going on, live organisational management problems are getting fixed, leadership skills in listening, questioning, problem-solving, coaching etc are being developed which delivers benefits back from the moment the first action learning set takes place. And don’t underestimate the benefits gained through improved understanding and communications delivered as a result of managers working together in the action learning sets. You can even use action learning to drive change initiatives, projects and other programmes because action learning is an incredibly effective approach for getting people to take action!

    As you’ve probably guessed, I really do believe in action learning!

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