Had an insightful conversation today.
As with any education programme orientated around leadership, standard practice is to have participants work in groups, teams or in business-speak, cohorts. Where do they come up with this terminology, some of which is part of the problem but that is another subject!
There are always two main arteries to such group work: The end product (usually some sort of plenary presentation) and then the process itself – the journey towards realizing ‘the end product’. What happens in a performance driven culture is that the end product – the presentation, becomes the total focus. The pressure to perform, to impress one’s colleagues in many cases becomes a major source of stress. While this is an important aspect to the purpose of the group work, I suspect the ‘real learning’ gets missed.
The ‘real’ learning is embedded in how the group got to the delivery point. It is in the team dynamics, the process of reaching the end goal. Questions that explore this journey seldom get asked and because of that, the very real dynamics of teamwork get ignored. For instance, questions pertaining to leadership in the group and how that evolved, participation, getting stuck and making progress, negotiating differences, handling conflict etc…provide the courageous conversations of real learning in this example. These tough conversations and analysis this is dependent on the ability to give and receive authentic feedback, and therein sits another problem for without the anonymous forms and HR methodologies to hide behind, many simply do not know how to do this in a constructive, mature way.
My insightful conversation involved an individual who felt excluded from participating in the group process. Repeated efforts to be heard failed, resulting in the individual simply ‘going along’ in silent ‘agreement’. The group was the poorer for this omission.
The chances of this type of exclusion occurring are significantly increased when working in a diverse or cross-cultural group. The barriers represented by generational difference, cultural differences and personal differences, to name but a few, mean that inclusive cooperation in not easily achieved.
Naturally the APLP programme cannot prevent the difficulties that emerge in doing such group work. However, unlike most executive leadership type programmes, the learning emphasis sits not in the presentation but in the process. Today, having done the presentations, we will be allowing time for unpacking how the respective groups traveled the road towards that goal. It will provide some insightful learning and certainly tee up the opportunity for the teams and individuals to grasp some deep learning. With responsibility for learning resting with the Learner, that will be their responsibility to realize.
I look forward to the session!