Back when ‘New Kids on the Block’ were actually ‘new’ (the 80’s, for those not so big on popular culture), Kolb introduced experiential learning theory. His views were that, essentially, we learn through making meaning from experiences. For instance, we might come across a new and exciting business challenge, we make it happen and then move on to the next thing. But how might that experience develop you as a leader? In other words, how can we get the most from our experiences?

It’s all about the meaning making…

…and reflection is the key ingredient. Sounds simple but we often don’t do enough of it. Reflection on experience shapes our learning which informs the way we operate and behave. By experimenting with and trying out new behaviours, processes and ways of doing things we then end up with new experiences to reflect on, and so the cycle continues…

The four c’s of reflection

Eyler, Giles, and Schmiede introduced four types of reflection (who would have thought there could be that many!?) continuous, connected, challenging and contextualized.

–        Continuous = reflection before, during and after the experience
–        Connected = reflection that aims to integrate the experience with your own learning and development as leader
–        Challenging = reflection that pushes you to think in new ways, produce understanding and problem solving
–        Contextualising = reflection being context and setting specific

Give me an example, we hear you ask…

We recently created a development programme with a client whose objective was to explore how the Exec team might push boundaries and experiment more, to challenge the status quo and their current perceptions of leadership – opening doors to new ideas.

Maier’s two-day event was designed to take the team out of their comfort zone, moving them away from their desks and into a completely different area of the business. The event allowed the Exec Group to see things through a different perspective; encouraging reflection on how they currently act, think, and feel as leaders

Linking this to the three c’s

  • Continuous reflection was a key aspect with facilitated sessions held before and after the main ‘activity’, as well as that, the team were asked to think about what they were learning during the event and how they’d like to share their reflections with the team. Be it video diaries, pictures or just good old storytelling.
  • Connected reflection relates to how the experience might impact on the Exec’s behaviours, perceptions and leadership. For example, one Exec member shared her reflections on an interaction she’d had through the activity; she really admired the coaching style of an employee who was showing her how to operate a piece of machinery. Although the Exec doesn’t operate machinery in her daily role (she heads up Finance!) this interaction inspired her to think differently about how she might manage her direct reports.
  • Challenging reflection is where a Maier coach comes in, as well as immediate peers – posing challenging and thought-provoking questions for the individual and team to reflect on – it can be a powerful way of generating meaning and embedding the learning. Through individual and group sessions we provide a safe environment to do this – allowing the opportunity to express ideas and thoughts in relation to the experience.
  • Contextualized reflection relates to where and how the reflections should take place around the event itself. In this instance, collective and individual reflection took place through group sessions before and after the event and 1:1 coaching sessions. Both encouraged meaningful discussion and debate.

How has it helped the team?

  • Challenged and changed perceptions and influenced key business decisions
  • Having introduced the idna framework to the team, it enabled them to put theory into practice – questioning and observing their environment in a more reflective way than they might usually – enabling more creative thinking

Keeping the momentum 

After this first ‘experience’, the team were hungry for more and we quickly moved into planning the follow-up which, once again, pushed the boundaries by taking them into yet another area of the business; immersing themselves within a new setting, with a new team and encouraging them to explore how connected the team are to the business as well as what learnings they can take back to the day-to-day. As ever, extremely exciting stuff with some great outputs.

Sound interesting?

We work collaboratively with all of our clients, designing and facilitating programmes that are truly in line with the needs of their business. This example is one of many success stories. If you’d like to have a chat about how we might work together in achieving your leadership development objectives, we’d love to hear from you. Details below…