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The importance of developing individual leadership skills is further been emphasized by asking questions about individual leadership skill development before team and organizational development in the post-session debriefing process. A problem with this debriefing practice became obvious to me when I noticed that it took much more time to debrief individual, as compared to team or organization, development because of the time it took to address the develop goals for every member of the team (which usually included feedback from other team members).

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I am a coaching associate with Emerging World. Emerging World delivers immersive experiences for global corporations to bring out the best in their people. It enables people to see the world from different perspectives to shift their businesses and help to shape a better future. I returned to Nairobi for my 3rd time in May as part of program called ‘Go with Maersk’. 56 Maersk new and emerging leaders from 26 countries joined some senior Maersk leaders to spend the week assisting local socially based organizations (partners) and communities around Nairobi to improve the conditions and skills to bring change.

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In August 1979, at the age of 16, I became the coach of a handball team of children aged 7 and 8. That is exactly 40 years ago: 40 years in which team coaching in sports, education, and business has always been my favorite and most successful activity. Almost always I started in practice and afterward only took theoretical training: Action Learning pur sang. I would like to share my reflection on these 40 years with you in this article. During my MBA education, I discovered new models that try to predict success. They provide managers with certainty and are based on linear thinking. . But in the current time this is no longer sufficient. The current challenge for organizations is to have teams deliver results and learn from this.

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We are always looking for effective new ways to market what we do. About 18 months back we came up with idea of the “INDABA” workshop.

We believe the meaning of word Indaba captures the heart of Action Learning. An indaba is an important conference held by the izinDuna (principal men) of the Zulu or Xhosa peoples of South Africa to deal with important tribal matters. The term comes from a Zulu language word, meaning ‘business’ or ‘matter.’

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As action learning coaches, we learn to intervene when we see learning opportunities or to improve the performance of the group. This is easier said than done. Knowing when and how to intervene in a group that is functioning well is hard enough. You have to pick the appropriate moment, ask the right questions, and consider the impact you wish to have through the intervention. When group dynamics are tricky, however, this becomes even harder. And while it requires great courage, I would argue that the trickiest, most courageous interventions can have the greatest effect. During action learning sessions, sometimes challenging dynamics arise – so-called “elephants in the room.”

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Action Learning involves attention for both the upperstream and the undercurrent. It also requires a balance in the roles of leader, coach and manager. The power of Action Learning is that it contributes to the continuous process of achieving consensus on challenges and problems. It begins at an early stage! Let’s take primary school as an example. The great Action Learning question in this case is: “How do I prepare children for their unpredictable future? ”. This is absolutely different from the past, since we have always prepared people for a more predictable future.

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Until six years ago, for many years, the late, great Harry Levinson donated 90 minutes a month for six months every year to coach and advise six Division 13 psychologists who were in the early phases of their development as consulting psychologists. Harry worked virtually, using conventional conference calling technology. He felt an obligation to provide new generations of consulting psychologists with a sort of internship that was not generally available at that time for psychologists that were converting from clinical, counseling, or I/O to consulting psychology.

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WIAL Malaysia completed our first CALC Certification for 2020 on 22 February. On 18 March 2020, less than a month after our event, Malaysia was placed under a Coronavirus lockdown directive. All public gatherings were ordered stopped and almost all the country’s economic activities came to a standstill. This situation was unprecedented and it was a great shock to many. In February 2020 I recalled clearly that we had proposed a three months coaching consultancy work, with an option of extension for another two months for the sales team of a small and medium size (SME) financial services entity. We had little experience on virtual training deliveries as almost all our clients expected us to be physically present during trainings.

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Carl Rogers was an American psychologist who lived between 1902 and 1987. The Person-Centered Approach was developed by him, also considered a pioneer in scientific research in psychotherapy.

Reginald “Reg” William Revans was a British academic professor, administrator and management consultant who pioneered the use of Action learning. He is considered the “father “of Action Learning. He lived between 1907 and 2003. Although they lived at the same time being contemporary, they may never have met, or at least I have found no evidence of this meeting. However, their approaches are absolutely complementary and consistent with each other.

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I have never been a fan of presenting a webinar. I always feel like I’m talking to myself. The loss of interaction with the audience I find horrifically deflating. However, give me an audience I can interact with and I am in my element. Especially, if it’s a small audience like the CALC classes. My favorite has become the four-day intensive. In the face to face program, we typically require no prework, other than to contemplate potential problems to work on.

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At the World Institute for Action Learning (WIAL), we frequently talk about the impact we can have on individuals, teams and organizations. When groups experience the WIAL Action Learning method, it has a profound impact at all three of these levels. But have you considered the impact Action Learning can also have on wider society?

In 2015, we established the WIAL Better World Fund to provide Action Learning services to community-based organizations around the world. Grant recipients include organizations and individuals that are working to improve communities and lives globally.

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In Action Learning sessions we always try to get our teams to identify the real problem. Recently, I was asked “How do we know when we are there?”

I’ve had a lot of time to think about this recently as I am dealing with the consequences of not looking for the deeper problem. About eight years ago I realized I was losing the hearing in my left ear. I started seeing an ENT (Ear Nose Throat) specialist. After several appointments, he concluded I must have had a virus that killed the cilia and I would just need to get used to it.

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SP Nathan, a Director at Servebetter, attended a two days WIAL Foundations of Action Learning workshop at Kuala Lumpur in 2015 on his own initiative. He was curious about the AL process and had a burning question on ‘how well can Action Learning help NGOs solve problems?’ Nathan’s greatest discovery about Action Learning was that it is a tool that emphasizes live experiences by providing actionable solutions instead of the traditional methodology of classroom learning.

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Imagine a girl, university student, a bit obsessed with such tiny things as changing the whole education system in Europe, active in the youth field and desperate to break unnecessary social bounds. But also a true critic, living in Budapest. Let’s call her Bernadett.

She has this family friend, Steve, who travels around the world, explores deeply very different cultures and religions. All she sees of him is that he turns up from time to time, showing awesome pictures and sharing crazy adventures from every continent. And he has this mystical profession, which she never really understood what it was.

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I respectfully challenge our coaches and clients to think about the really BIG challenges they could solve and potentially GREAT results they could achieve through Action Learning. My experience with clients and coaches is that either we do not understand, or we seriously underestimate the power of Action Learning. I observe this with many coaches and am committed to changing this perception. When I first started using WIAL Action Learning, I unconsciously looked for the smaller problems I could help clients solve and was delighted when we delivered and I charged a few thousand dollars.

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A central bank is a unique organization and a multi-state central bank even more so, hence the value in having its leadership development program custom-made. The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) is the first multi-state central bank in the world, predating the European Central Bank. The major challenge is that the Bank has to coordinate and monitor the financial system and developing economies of its eight member states, six of which are independent nations. So, while striving to be a viable organization, the ECCB is also obligated to ensure that there is balanced growth and economic development in its member states. These member states face the usual vulnerabilities common to small island states as well as the adverse impact of the vagaries of the global financial system.

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The reality today changes more dynamically than ever before. Significant changes can be seen in the area of politics and economy. Markets change abruptly and technological progress is so quick that the solutions from yesterday may not be valid today.

Strategies that work today may be insufficient tomorrow. Needless to say, these words were valid a few decades ago when Reg Revans described Action Learning 1).

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The first stage, empathize, focuses on the user. Empathy is the foundation of the human-centered design process whereby we observe and engage with users, immerse ourselves to uncover their needs (they may or may not be aware of) and discover their emotions. We can think of empathize as part of the process that guides the innovation efforts and identifies the right users. Thereby, immersion gives context to the work of the organization and users, which is also an important component of Action Learning. Action Learning draws upon a diverse group of people across the organization at various levels to get an understanding of the context and identify various user needs.

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WIAL USA hosted its quarterly virtual Community of Practice (COP) in August. The COP sessions are designed to build community and enhance skills among WIAL Action Learning (AL) coaches and those working towards certification. Feedback from coaches confirms they value coming together to network, share experiences, practice action learning, and learn from speakers and each other.

For the August COP, it was our pleasure to have Dr. Bea Carson as our guest speaker. Bea is President and Chair of the WIAL-USA Board, a Master Action Learning Coach, and President and owner of Carson Consultants.

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Why are we here? And why do we do what we do? These are big philosophical questions that have been preoccupying mankind for many years. They are also questions many corporations are now asking themselves in order to provide competitive and relevant workplaces in an age where generations of employees want more meaning from their work.

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Not so long ago, in a small hotel in the Polish mountains, I was teaching the CALC course and this question came up: Why do we actually say “we” and not “you” while addressing the teams we coach? For example, our script says “What are we doing well?” and not “What are you doing well?” In individual coaching the coach always uses “you” to show and emphasize the responsibility of the client. In WIAL Action Learning we prefer a different style. Having some difficulty in thoroughly explaining this to my group, I decided to ask other SALCs and MALCs. This article is the summary from this discussion.

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Biological organisms inherently have defensive reaction to threats in their environment. Given time they learn how to defend against newly emerging challenges. Through evolution, they learn to adapt. However, if the changes in the environment go unnoticed or happen faster than their ability to learn and act, they go extinct. A very common observation from the natural world.

If man-made organizations have the vitality and the resilience like a biological organism, Action Learning would serve as part of their evolutionary defense system. However in reality a mature organisation, as well as an adult individual, may fail to recognise the benefits of Action Learning, hesitate to learn how it works and unintentionally apply some ‘business as usual’ behaviours to poison and eventually kill the effort, only to continue searching for other means to ensure their prosperity.

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I became curious about Action Learning after co-facilitating a three-day leadership training to a group of middle managers in a hierarchical and relationship oriented culture. The material for the leadership training had been developed internally by my client’s European headquarters. During the leadership training the participants were engaged with topics of strategy, individual strengths, diversity, decision-making, and coaching skills. The training consisted of theory combined with experiential learning activities. Throughout the program it became apparent that attendees had good comprehension of the presented content and applying it.

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“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few” – Shunryu SuZuki

Last month I conducted a leadership development program for one of the largest manufacturing companies in Thailand. This program was designed for key leaders and supervisors from six plants all over the country. Action learning was one of important components of the learning and development process. All sessions demonstrated the power of action learning but there was one, in particular, that was really interesting.

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When Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi summarized his many years of research into what makes for an optimum experience and brings enjoyment, he focused mainly on individuals. His work Flow; the psychology of optimal experience (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990) is full of examples of surgeons, mountain climbers or even assembly workers who focus fully on their core activity and get real enjoyment out of practicing and honing their skills constantly. They are in flow. A flow experience is rooted in the internal conscious focus that is put on the activity, as opposed to reacting to external stimuli or conditions.

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The concentration of team members during an Action Learning session is typically very high. The dynamic of asking questions, answering questions, active listening and the focus on the multiple aspects of the session (the problem, leadership competencies, team dynamics, coach learning interventions) completely fills up the mental capacity of the team members. That is also why the recommended number of members in an Action Learning team is maximum of eight. It is simply too much for our conscious mind to monitor and actively deal with if there are too many interactions.

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In part 1 and 2 of this series of articles, we looked at the eight components that bring enjoyment to work according to the Flow research (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, p. 49), and have clearly demonstrated that WIAL Action Learning fulfills all the requirements and creates the environment for the development of more complex individuals through differentiation and integration.

But Action Learning does not guarantee a team will experience flow. Some sessions run very smoothly and are a great and valuable experience for all, including the coach. Some sessions can feel tense and ineffective.

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If I did not know how to swim and I wanted to become a swimmer is there a book you could recommend – that if I read the book I could then call myself a swimmer? Or maybe you could recommend a video that if I just watched I could then call myself a swimmer?

Might your answer be “Sorry – there is no such book or video!”

What would I have to do if I wanted to become a swimmer?

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No form of communication is as powerful as a question. Great questions have changed our lives, and indeed, have changed the world! In Action Learning, group members are required to use questions because questions have the unique power and ability to accomplish all 4 of the WIAL solution spheres.

Questions are necessary for individuals and groups to be creative and to find breakthrough solutions. All the great inventions in the history of the world were the result of a question asked by the inventor.

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More than twenty years ago, three Filipinos, Tina Asuncion Alafriz, Leo Castillo and myself met in a personal transformation seminar and became friends. We realized then the importance of continuous learning and attended more leadership programs, which eventually led us to discover our purpose in Life – to assist in the actualization of the Filipino’s potential through corporate training.

This became our Life’s work. Tina joined Management Strategies Inc. (MgtStrat) building it up to become one of the more successful corporate consultancy in the country.

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