Leadership and Learning

The learning process is best facilitated by being able to perceive diverse viewpoints and the flexibility to change viewpoints before making a conclusion. When a conclusion is based upon emotions it can be prejudicial and can undermine the learning process.  The limiting beliefs held by each member of a team impede the learning process.  For example, the belief that a process will be successful because it has been successful in the past is limiting because the external environmental changes over time.  Another example is when individuals feel they have earned their success they may resort to emotional conclusions and not be receptive to spontaneous learning.

The emotions of change are loss, anger and fear. Generally, each change contains one or more of these emotions. Each change should be viewed as an opportunity for a learning experience.  One key is to recognize what really is at stake: are we threatened with a loss of value or with a loss of a limitation? Can our risk in innovating be analyzed for action or are we paralyzing ourselves with self-fulfilling mind process?

We have within us remarkable capabilities for change, learning and for helping each other make the process continuous. The following is a five-step approach to convert inflexibility into new learning.

Step One:  Recognize the Belief
The first step in managing change is to recognize any inflexible thinking and identify its source. Try to recall an event of heightened emotion or perceived threat and remember how you felt and what you concluded. Among these conclusions, select one which has had a strong effect in your work life. Note why it might have seemed an appropriate conclusion at the time but also note any of its limiting effects.

Step Two:  Analyze the Effects
List the effects of this conclusion.  Hold an open “no consequences” discussion with the members of your team affected by your conclusion.  Listen to understand, not to agree or disagree and appreciate the diversity in views. Help get the information on the table to facilitate consciously selecting options.

Step Three:  Define the Options
Your options are usually to keep, change or revitalize the conclusion. How can you best communicate this to the others?  How will employees model the decision? How will it empower others? Solidify your vision of what the positive effects will look like once achieved.

Step Four:  Mobilize Options
Select a starting point for your plan with a specific application that will yield visible effects. How will you get buy-in? How will you share the risk with others? How will you communicate the plan? If your option involves a group, meet periodically to receive feedback and tactfully give input. Remember, most learning results from good listening.

Step Five:  Evaluate Outcomes
Again concentrate on desired effects and adjust as necessary. What have you learned? Focus on what indicators you are using to monitor progress in the revitalization.

This process is always augmented through mutual recognition, honest discussion and an aligned effort.  The result is an environment which, independent of top down manipulation, encourages learning, innovation and empowerment.

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