Last week I delivered a presentation on ‘turning theory into action’ to the International Leadership Association conference in Auckland. The presentation focused on leadership development and attempted to give an axiological perspective on what it takes for managers to take the ‘theory’ they get in development programmes and turn it into action in the workplace.
In this blog we quickly share a few of the thoughts presented, to stimulate some thoughts about your programmes or your participation in leadership development training.
The Perfect Programme
Imagine a leadership development training programme where 100% of the content was used by 100% of the participants. Imagine the result you would have! That’s what turning theory into action is all about; aiming for that magic 100% of 100%.
We use axiology in our accelerated coaching programmes as well as the guiding principle of the meta-system in our high performing teams programme. In a learning context we suggested that the lenses we prefer will guide our approach to learning, bringing with it strengths and weaknesses. There are those that are led by theory and concepts, those who are task led and prefer doing, and those that are people led and learn by interaction with others.
Those that are attentive to theory will enjoy the accumulation of ideas and concepts, however they tend to make them real in their head (conceptually). When the ideas are real in their head, they are real to them, meaning that they may not have a drive to practise the ideas in the workplace, particularly if they have less of an interest in the people lens (leadership is about others).
Those that are attentive to tasks will see everything that needs done. If leadership training does not give them things to do, they may not see the value in the theory (which is after all just a concept until they use it). Their focus on ‘what needs done’ may get in the way of them practising leadership, and they may pick up the content which is more activity focused and not build a thorough foundation of concepts.
Those who have a people bias need to interact with others to engage in leadership training. They will learn through the discussion/ listening and interactivity. They also need the theory to be people-centric and will not easily engage in anything that is not ‘good for people’ or that they feel will risk their relationships with others. They may pick up the people content (coaching for example) but may not engage in all of the theoretical principles of it.
Each of us will have tendencies in some areas more than others, and the main message was that the learner’s preferences can bring strengths and weaknesses when it comes to turning theory into action.
And the solution?
Our high performing teams programme aims to engage every leader through every lens, allowing them to engage in a way that works for them, while also helping them access the lenses that they are less attentive to. In doing so we encourage them to find their pathway to action.