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Rapid Culture Change is Possible Part 2 (of 2)

from: Brace E. Barber



In Part 1 we explored how adults learn and began breaking down immersion team building and leadership development training. We'll finish our journey now and give you the foundation for creating success in your organization.

The power of rapid repetition:

The compression of time for behavioral changes is because the same leadership patterns that exist in the workplace are mimicked in the training, only they are rapid and clear. In the unguided and unanalyzed workplace, decisions are made, yet the consequences of those decisions are days or months in the future and are rarely completely seen or understood. Certainly, the interpersonal communication aspects of impressions, perceptions and clarity are never addressed. Compress this pattern and repeat it multiple times in a matter of days in a guided environment where the decision-consequence link is clear, and you will rapidly change behaviors.

After traveling the cycle once, it would be nice to stop there and pat each other on the back, but in immersion training, there is always more to do to. There is a superposition achieved by moving immediately into another round of introduction, experience, analysis and bridging; then another and then another, etc. This training gets leaders leading; making mistakes, evaluating decisions, and doing it again in rapid succession.

This superposition of progress was logged by a university study performed on the Leading Concepts’ Ranger TLC (teamwork, leadership, communication) Experience, a four-day, 80 hour training course. It showed consistent improvement in the areas of trust in peers, group awareness, group effectiveness (cohesion), group bonding and interpersonal communications. Although those were the only areas considered in the study, the lessons can be much farther ranging. In addition to the focus areas selected for instruction, a recent Entrepreneur Magazine article showed how immersion training can inspire people. “Many enter leadership training believing their most valuable lessons will be in the areas of policies and procedures, but they come away with more fundamental insights that are ultimately more valuable.” The article went on to say that, “owners who rated their experiences most highly were those who detached themselves the most.”

Those who are detached the most and who have no outside distractions have the greatest opportunity to develop a clear picture of what the teaching and experience mean to them. They have time to reflect, not only during the analysis and bridge period, but during their downtime also. It is that hidden after-hours time that can lock the principles and values into a person’s decision cycle. Facilitation of the learning of the intended message as clearly and deeply as possible is the beginning of the future, and it is another product of experiential training that less-involved methods cannot match.

Have your message received clearly:

One of the reasons there is so little progress on the soft-skills despite mountains of writing, speaking and training, is because the teachers are writing on a crowded blackboard of the student’s education. The distortion of writing with a big piece of chalk in the small, open places of the blackboard, or in giant letters over existing writing, obstructs even the understanding of the intended lessons. If proper understanding is never achieved then the persistence needed to take a lesson and create a habit cannot start.

Compounding the difficulty of implementation of new behaviors is the fact that the work environment, where these behaviors are intended to work, is not a guided experience. There is a mash of activities that don’t lend themselves to 8-1/2 x 11 margins. If we get to the point of attempted application, we see mutated lessons, adapted by a person in a job where the cause and effect of leadership are rarely evident. The results are mutated and misattributed if they are recognized at all. This approach leaves everyone shrugging their shoulders in frustration.

Some would rightly say that it is precisely a person’s background, education and work experience that make it possible for them to learn new materials quickly. They are able to link new information with existing experience to create new understandings. That is completely accurate, and extremely valid in a hard skill. The problem this encounters in the soft-skill environment is that people’s existing leadership experience, if they have any, is trial and error and seldom firmly planted in accurate guiding principles. Their experience then becomes the confusing scribbling on the blackboard.

The way to overcome the whiteout conditions of the student’s education is to find their clean blackboard. You must have a place where a clear message can be communicated, and in a method that will change behaviors beyond the last slide.

The immersion method gives you a clean blackboard for nearly everyone in your company. In the top left hand corner of the board write “Guided Leadership Experience.” (table 2) Underneath that, write, “Actual Leadership Experience.” For the most efficient progress, these two must go together. Actual experience is often called on-the-job experience, the preponderance of which is unguided. Guided experience is what we call professional development. To add to my definition of experiential training, it starts beyond books, speeches and seminars at a level where a person is making leadership decisions that will have consequences.

Table 2. Guided Experience is characterized by:

  • Focus subject instruction - Education on focus subjects. (Teamwork, Leadership, Communication)

  • Free-play scenarios - Leaders and followers experience real stresses of teamwork and the consequences of their actions with as few controls as possible.

  • After action reviews - Discovery, structured around focus subjects, by students of lessons learned and discussion of potential improvements.

    Table 2a. Guided Experience is augmented by:

  • Bridge building - Creating links from the lessons learned to work and life application.

  • Post training follow-up - Consistent reinforcement of lessons learned through complimentary instructional material, chain of command interaction, and advanced guided experiential training.

    Guided leadership experience is nearly non-existent. To be fair, most of the top business schools have incorporated experiential training and role-playing into their curriculum. Unfortunately, the guided nature of the experience does not have a foundation of actual experience on which to build. In an informal survey of one of the top business schools, only 10-15% of the student body had ever had leadership responsibility for other people prior to enrollment.

    Harvard Business School professor Linda A. Hill in her book, Becoming a Manager warns, “Newly minted MBAs who have never had subordinates reporting to them before may take jobs in which they will have considerable people management responsibilities, with little sense of the risk in doing so.”

    This leadership risk can be mitigated, not only for the new MBA, but for everyone – EVERYONE. Leadership is risky. Arranged properly, it is the leader’s leather chair that is on the line for consequences of decisions made. By giving the person the best possible chance for success, the risk of monetary, morale and self-esteem losses are all mitigated. The best chance for success is achieved when leaders at all levels are allowed the privilege of testing and developing their leadership skills in non-job threatening, guided environments.

    Conclusion:

    Write your message on the clean blackboard of guided leadership experience and purposefully develop your company’s leadership core. Immersion training offers the best way to communicate a clear message that will quickly change people’s behaviors. The relatively dramatic nature of the training also prepares people for receptivity to new information that can in turn transform your corporate culture – no matter what you want it to be.

    Individuals are the building blocks of teams, of companies, and of corporate cultures. The good news is that you do have the ability to influence and build individuals in a rapid fashion. You have to remain dedicated to the ideal and with a firm hold on the flag pole of experiential training.

    To learn more about how immersion team building and leadership training can help you visit: http://www.leadingconcepts.com

    Copyright 2005 Brace E. Barber

    About the Author

    Brace E. Barber works extensively in the field of immersion soft-skill training. His partnership with Leading Concepts, Inc. (http://www.leadingconcepts.com) has allowed for the expansion of this extraordinary level of experiential training. He is the author of the book No Excuse Leadership. (http://www.noexcuseleadership.com) (J. Wiley and Sons Publishing)




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