Senior leaders working in a large residential epilepsy trust are complete and utter experts at their jobs. They are highly skilled and dedicated to their work. A key challenge was how to work well as a senior management team. We were privileged to be asked to facilitate our two-day workshop raising awareness of adaptability, empathy, critical thinking, integrity, being proactive, optimistic and resilient. For most of the participants this was possibly the first time they had engaged with this kind of learning which is, by nature, exposing due to its experiential nature. The content is largely driven by the group and means there is nowhere to hide. This means that the learning as it is experienced is real and mirrors closely how they are likely to be interacting in their working and day-to-day lives. This made it challenging to deliver and facilitate. The training this group had been used to was definitely more of the Power Point and role-play kind. It meant that some participants found it difficult to engage because to do so may have felt threatening and uncomfortable.
In one of our exercises on Adaptability we engage participants in a high-impact activity where many are likely to be out of their comfort zone. We then reflect on how that felt physically, mentally and emotionally and how choosing to stay in your comfort zone can limit you in terms of the risks and challenges you might take on and the opportunities you might be missing. This exercise was difficult for at least half the group. Several chose not to take part in the experiential part. This turned out to be a gift as they were able to describe fully and accurately just how it feels to be in “panic zone” and what they would have needed to be able to operate in stretch zone which is where all the learning and growth happens.
By contrast because this leadership team were used to handling crises and problem-solving the Critical Thinking tasks were different. Teams did very well in two different kinds of problem solving tasks – (Task 1) both teams took entirely different approaches. In both teams the male participants led the task which I suspect is what they normally do (group confirmed this afterwards too). One led collaboratively which meant that as the task progressed there was a lot of consensus, listening and doing. The other took on the lead and had a clear idea of where he wanted the task to go i.e. creative way of achieving it. This was really interesting because the rest of the team simply let him do it – they physically sat and stood back whilst he worked it out and even DID the task with them watching. They later reported that this is exactly what happens in the workplace. Both teams reached the end result. In (Task 2) where more complex brainwork was required we observed similar actions – i.e. the groups did not change their behaviour significantly. The first group (again led by the same person although this was not pre-decided by anyone) – the leader immediately made the task visual so that everyone had clarity around what was needed. This task required a lot of brain workand figuring stuff out.
In the second group this was also done more collaboratively but much later into the task.
When this leadership team realised that what they were doing during the workshop mirrored their workplace and life behaviours the insights were immense. This is how self-awareness can be built – participants determine learning outcomes and decide actions to take where they can build on these.