Don’t shoot the piano player!

It must have been a magical evening in Morlanwez. One of our senior executives was showing off his piano virtuosity and the rest of the executive team was gaily singing along. Throughout the day, they had discovered surprising aspects in each other’s personality and the next day, they’d be ready to give open and honest feedback to one another. Why not? They trusted each other ! And all this thanks to the 2 day offsite that our L&D team had organised.

It was a crucial learning event for us. The company had decided to make the shift to the New Way of Working. This called for a new leadership culture based on trust and responsibility instead of ordering around and obeying the orders. Senior Management had to pave the way and L&D was ready to teach them how to go about it.

Of course our preparation was impeccable ! We had selected the provider with greater care than ever. We had discussed the content of the program in detail. We had attended a pilot. The planning of the program was running smoothly. And when the first group of participants returned, they were enthused beyond belief. Naturally, we were curious to see the results. At long last things would change …

And that’s where things went wrong. Where were those results ? Each participant was full of praise. It was the best training they’d ever experienced. But afterwards they fell back into their old routine. They kept on leading their teams just as they had done for years.

When we confronted them with this fact, we got the usual excuses : no time, it was the wrong moment now, they couldn’t remember exactly what had been agreed upon, priorities had changed…. Yet, they assured us : don’t change the training itself because , really , the training was just perfect.

When we developed the Indra Partners ‘Connection Method’ I often thought about this training. What would we have done differently if we had known the Connection Method at that point ?

For starters, we would have looked for a much clearer answer to these questions : what do we want to achieve with this training and how does the result become visible in the day-to-day reality ? What does a leaderships culture, based on trust and responsibility entail ? What does that mean for the way senior managers lead their teams ? How can they demonstrate that they are working according to these principles ?

The answers to these questions would have allowed us to look with fresh eyes to the training. Is this the best approach to realise the objectives ? Are we sure that participants will be able to put into practice what they have learned in the training ?

We would have adapted our communication to the participants. We would have been much more explicit about the context in which we organised the program. Instead of asking about their expectations, we would have asked targeted questions abut their current leadership style. One question could have been : Do they trust their team members “a priori ” or do they think that trust needs to be earned ?

We wouldn’t have changed the actual content of the program much but we would have put a much greater emphasis on the link of NWOW to the daily reality after the training. This wasn’t a ‘team building’ program… it was a training that was supposed to have a leadership impact on the team members. Singing together is great to create a better team spirit as a foundation to give authentic feedback to each other. It is not enough if the end result should be a different leadership style to the team.

This is why we would have approached the after-training differently as well. More specifically, the action plans. They were isolated ideas. During the training participants did tell each other what they’d do differently but no one involved their teams with their plans once they were back to reality. The teams heard stories about the piano and who had the biggest singing talent but not about the impact of the actual training. They didn’t see the change and they didn’t know what the managers had planned to make the change happen. No one could remind the managers of their promises, which made it easy to forget about them.

All in all, the training was too much of a stand-alone-event. An interesting and stimulating event but one that wasn’t anchored in the daily reality of the managers and their team.

Be it through a workshop, a business game or a change program, we always make a link between the participants and those who are at the receiving end of the change in behaviour. That is the strength of the Connection Method : before, during and after the training. It is the connection throughout the extended learning experience that makes the difference to create a lasting result.

And lasting results : isn’t that what all learning activities are about?


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