I spent much of last week on a leadership development course – as a participant this time, rather than presenter. Which was pretty cool for a change!

This course was almost 100% facilitated through experiential learning, which I am a BIG fan of.  If you haven’t come across it before, a simple description would be learning through doing, or rather reflecting on the doing.

Consider Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle below:


Concrete Experience is where you have the experience. Then through Reflective Observation you review and reflect on the experience. This is followed by Abstract Conceptualisation where you draw conclusions or learning from the experience. Finally, through Active Experimentation, you start to plan for and try out your new learning.

Many moons ago, all this formed the basis for my masters dissertation! So it was a pleasure to revisit it all again. The coolest thing about this type of learning is that every time you do it, even if you’ve come across some of the exercises before, you learn something new.

And this group of participants were truly a fabulous bunch! We were all up front and honest from the get-go and got a great group bond building straight away. Each of the exercises were challenging and insightful in many and various ways. But a curious thing happened… Even though we all knew we were participating in an experiential learning programme, there came a point when people started requesting more theory!

Isn’t it funny how the traditional methods of teaching and learning are so engrained in us throughout our lives, that even when a method comes along where we experience the learning, we feel a shift and a change in our being, and yet because we are on a course, we feel the need for theory and notes and handouts. What is a course without slides and presentations anyway?! And in all honesty, even though I am familiar with this type of learning, I noticed the absence of traditional methods more than I would like to admit. After all, I teach using PowerPoint slides. All my webinars and programs use slides at some point or other. I work with students on their final dissertations and grade their assignments for their MBA’s– FULL of theory and models and research papers. And here I was, on a course, stripped of slides and models and theories. The primary focus was on how I was experiencing it all.

Over three days we undertook a series of indoor and outdoor activities involving balls, shapes, ropes, numbers, cards and of course most importantly, ourselves. So I thought I would share a few of my key experiences and insights on leadership and teamwork this time around:

=> I was reminded, not for the first time, that leadership is not so much about imparting advice, as listening and facilitating.

Always_do=> The days were long, and I remembered that for me, downtime is equally important as engaged time. In fact, it’s essential for digesting, and processing and allowing creativity to develop. This programme, as great as it was, didn’t allow for enough of this for me

=> Leaders hold many balls in the air at one time. As much as we have to be ready to catch the next ball that comes our way, we also need to be looking ahead at the person/people who need to catch the ball we are about to pass their way. Are they ready?

=> Always do what you say you will do – wise words shared by a fellow participant

=> People hear and understand differently. Just because I understand, does not mean everyone else does. Always check! Language can be interpreted so many different ways.

=> As leaders, we all have different styles and personalities, and there is no one right way, there are many… all equally effective.

What have been some of your insights into leadership based on your experience?