I am a big believer in leadership development classes, workshops, and seminars. I’ve witnessed (and experienced) so many of those “light bulb moments” where there is suddenly a huge shift in thinking that changes a leader’s approach, and results.
BUT. I wonder how much of it is the content of the class and how much of it is something else. Good content is important, yet the magic happens in the spaces between the tools and concepts. The class provides crucial time to think, reflect, and discuss. It gives time away from phones, email, customers, and employees and becomes a catalyst for dialog and insight that doesn’t happen on its own.
The class gets people together and gives them space and time to talk. The information, theories, tools, and approaches gives context and content for reflection, dialog, and sharing. The conversation lets people know that they are not alone in their challenges, and leading is sometimes difficult and lonely and sometimes a bit scary for everyone, and there are solutions.
It’s amazing what happens when leaders drop the charade of invulnerable infallibility and get human. Suddenly, there’s so much to teach and so much to learn. Building trust, exploring ideas, sharing and learning from each other’s joy and heartache doesn’t happen quickly. It takes time before the conversation gets deep enough and rich enough to matter.
Time that no one thinks they have – until they take it.
What thinks you?
Magical things can occur in a training room. Once people start to trust and to share things between them, it becomes the role of the trainer to get out of the way, and just sit back listen, because now the true Disney Magic is about to happen!
Great post Broc – I think a key role in great facilitation is to unlock the knowledge in the room and beyond. And for that you simply need some space, some time and some great conversation. Encouraging conversations is a key part of my work and I love it because it so often yields so much.
Thanks, Doug. Great facilitation is tough because it looks like you’re not really doing anything, but creating that space, encouraging the conversation, building and protecting trust, etc. is difficult. I suspect many trainers struggle with facilitation because it’s hard to let go and get out of the way (to use Peter’s words). Yet, it’s so, so rewarding because of what can come out of it when we do.
A time I dream of, is a time to talk afforded to everyone … not just leaders. Although I firmly believe we are all leaders in different ways, so could just be semantics playing it’s little game with me here 🙂
Thumbs up to you Broc
Yep, just semantics. All benefit. Though I have an unproven hunch that the higher you go in the organization the less developmental dialog there is so the more valuable it becomes.
It’s no surprise that this resonates with my outlook on leadership development Broc!
There’s something here about creating purposeful structures which is often overlooked in favour of showcasing content – facilitator/trainer ego at play?
The best programmes I’ve seen or been involved with were not about the content – in fact in hindsight they delivered very little content. The real skill & value was in creating a purposeful structure and then holding that space… creating dialogue and sharing thinking & reflections…
Personally, I think this is the most undervalued opportunity in leadership development programmes. So much more rewarding and transformative than ‘telling’ people about a management model…
Yet this old school approach persists & I really do wonder what role facilitators/trainers play in perpetuating out of date, out of touch, “sheep-dip” leadership development programmes… perhaps they need to “drop the charade of invulnerable infallibility” first ?
David, I once had an “old school” trainer participate in a leadership program I co-facilitated. He commented that he would have appreciated fewer exercises and more information…
It pains me to think that the ASTD is still offering a “Training’s Not Telling” class. I don’t fault the ASTD for offering it, but I’m troubled that it’s treated as new, novel, leading edge. Didn’t the field get past the concept of lecturing and moved on to actual learning a few decades ago. Obviously not…
I heard/read the phrase recently that “information does not equal transformation.” It’s certainly easier to be an info junkie and constantly seek out more than to actually think about and apply the information we already have.
Hey Broc, great post.
I’m with Tash in that I would like to think that this space to think would be extended to all levels of an organisation. Not least because you may find your next generation of leaders if you give them the chance to share and develop.
I used to work in very fast moving operations (London’s subway network) and the frontline was often neglected. Frontline Managers would often abhor corporate training or away days but I used to love the time to sit and think and share best practice. It’s why I love coaching so much because you can see people really emerging in to their true power, just through time to sit and reflect.
I’m currently designing a training day in Incident Management and I know that I need to allow plenty of time for the sharing of personal stories rather give loads of big “how to” stories. I’ll let you know how I get on.
Excellent! Can’t wait to hear how it works out.
Really enjoyable blog and comments (interestingly featuring several like-minded people I know 😉 )
I have taken this approach for many years and whilst often ‘strongly encouraged’ to provide content I think sharing a framework or model then standing back and helping the group to work with it meetsboth the commissioner’s need and the learners’. I am coming to the end of a programme where 10 out of 11 of the group get the importance of the programme creating that space to discuss the topics that are relevant to their development there is one who consistently feeds back that there should be more content and a faster pace!
There is nothing more satisfying than facilitating a leadership workshop where ‘magic’ happens – real issues get resolved, insights and eureka moments happen, behavioural change is visible and few (if any!) PowerPoint slides enter the room! If only more customers would trust the process and not measure the worth of a programme by the number of slides, handouts and ‘models’!
Conversations rule OK!
Margaret, thanks for your thoughts. Interesting how there is often an inverse relationship between measurable items (slides, pages, etc.) and “magic” (resolution, insights, eureka moments, and behavior change). It often seems that the stuff that’s easy to measure doesn’t really matter and the stuff that matters is really hard to measure.