Experimental Training Program: Wilderness/Adventure LearningTraining employees is a fundamental element of a corporations success.
Acompany succeeds only as well as the people running it can perform. Thistraining process can cover many skills and go into many areas of expertise. Onekey element that has only recently come into action is an outdoor- basedexperiential training program.Commonly called “ropes courses,” wilderness courses or adventurelearning programs have been in use in the USA since the early 1980’s, and byorganizations in the UK since the early 1970’s.
Outdoor programs have been mostbeneficial when used to promote effective work teams and used to enhanceleadership and management skills in the participants. Outdoor- based trainingprograms seem to accomplish these objectives by allowing participants to developa high level of trust in their peers, improve their problem-solving ability, andgenerally improve the level of interpersonal communications between groupmembers.Companies are looking for leaders that can launch them into a new era.Constant improvement is necessary to meet the growth of challenging competition.So who defines leadership? What is a leader and how would you raise these skillsthat may be laying dormant in your subordinates?Organizations need great leaders to help them successfully survive themany difficulties of this decade.
Yet, the very notion of leadership has rapidlydegenerated into a clich, a buzz word. In many people’s minds, leadership hasbecome identified with an overly simplistic conception of vision and empowerment.Although these concepts do play an important role in the leadership process,they only scratch the surface of what an exceptional leader actually does on aday-to-day basis.What do leaders really do to make an organization work well? In my researchI found that great leaders exhibit nine different kinds of behaviors that enablethem to bring out the best in the people around them. Some of the nine behaviorsof leadership listed below involve building participatory teams, some involveusing “situational management strategies,” while others enhance personalresources. Listed separately, the nine behaviors include:Developing people.Being able to influence others.
Encouraging teamwork.Empowering people.Using multiple options thinking.Taking intelligent risks.
Being passionate about work.Having a strong, clear vision.Stretching one’s personal creativity.While many people think leaders are unique, even born to that state ofexcellence, I have found just the opposite. With proper experiential training,it is possible for people to learn these leadership behaviors. In other words,leaders can be developed.
By all means they should be developed at many levelsin an organization because leadership in a hierarchical situation stimulates thebest in their followers and thereby increases overall productivity.In experiential training, the focus in on inner development. At thebeginning of one leadership training course, participants are asked for theirown definitions of leadership – so they can see, hear, and explore their ideasabout the real leadership qualities.
Most participants do not realize that thereare fundamental behaviors of exceptional leadership. Instead they tend tobelieve the common myths about leadership – that it is a rare skill exhibitedonly by those at the top, that leaders are born and always display charisma andthat they are strongly authoritative “take-charge” people Dispelling thesemyths is a key and briefly I will explain the nine, learnable behaviors ofleaders.In order to go beyond a cognitive understanding, participants must begin toexperience these behaviors as they might occur at work, hence the nameexperiential education. They will begin see that leaders have a strong interestin the people working for them, for when a team works well together they allhelp get an excellent job done.The first four behaviors focus on building high functioning teams:developing people; being able to influence others, encouraging teamwork, andempowering others.Developing People and Influencing OthersGood leaders have a strong interest in the personal and professionaldevelopment of their people.
They encourage their staff to push beyond theirlimitations and give their personal best. One of the best ways to get thisnotion of encouragement and support across to people is to ask participants toremember and then write down how their best boss treated them, and how they feltabout it. Then, have them share their answers with the rest of the group. Pointout the common denominators in their answers so that their own experiences fleshout a composite picture of what it is like to offer people the support they need.Finally, ask them this: If their own people were to do a similar exercise,would their own names be on their people’s lists? If not, why not? Where arethey falling short in evoking the best from their people?Encouraging TeamworkA good leader not only develops his or her people as individuals but alsoknows how to get the best out of people when they work on teams. Being able tohandle the subtle dynamics of whole group of people is not equivalent to dealingwith the sum of its parts.
By breaking participants into small groups and givingthem a simple problem to solve, you can teach them about the issues that arisefor teams. For example, if they work in small, separate teams on a towerbuilding project, they will see how working together in one team accomplishes agreater product. Or, if they each have a specific task that is necessary to getthe job done – being the navigator or pilot or other crew while landing thespace shuttle back on earth – they see the necessity of functioning welltogether.Some groups are results oriented. Some work on process, while others focusmore on the relationships among the team members. Analyzing these three aspectsof teamwork helps participants think about the way they work best individuallyand in teams.
Empowering OthersEmpowerment involves four dynamics: giving people important work to do;offering visibility and public recognition; encouraging autonomy; and helpingthem to establish networking skills.(IVAN) Exercises help participants feel theimportance of each of the four dynamics.Developing, influencing, encouraging, and empowering are four ways for aleader to get honest support. The best method to accomplish all thesecharacteristics is to be a role model of an intelligent, caring person who trulylistens. Equally important is the ability to analyze each business task and thestaff who are perform it. Sometimes, a leader can delegate the work withoutsupervision, but more often leaders need to coach, to facilitate or to direct sothat the task is accomplished well and the worker learns eventually how tobecome more independent.
Group exercises help participants experience thesedifferent levels of situational management.But leaders also have to lead. They are expected to know problem situationsand how handle them appropriately.
Using multiple options thinking andintelligent risk-taking are two ways to move beyond traditional managementtechniques that focus on single solutions and avoidance of any risk.Multiple Options ThinkingExceptional leaders don’t stop at the obvious. They know that the firstanswer they get may not always be the best answer, and even the “right” answermay not be appropriate for a particular situation. There should always be atleast four options to any given situation and when this way of thinking becomeshabitual, new solutions appear.
The skill of exploring multiple options is demonstrated in an easy exercise.Participants take a 3×5 card and write on the card at least five problems theyare currently facing with their employees such as reprimanding a difficultemployee or asking someone to take a pay cut. The cards are shuffled and someonepicks three or four of them. Ask the person whose problem is selected what he orshe believes is the best answer to that specific problem. Then ask the rest ofthe group to brainstorm a number of other answers to the problem. Even if thefirst answer seems to be the best one or even the only one insist that theygenerate at least four more alternatives.
Taking the time to discuss the various answers with them usually offers theseed of an innovative response, and this response is often one of the answersmost people ignore. Or two answers may be combined into a third option thatwould work better. Multiple option thinking should be the first approach ofexceptional leaders.Intelligent Risk TakingGood leaders know how to analyze the risks inherent in a particular courseof action. They know when an action is high-risk or low-risk.
Even moreimportantly, they know how to gain consensus from their staff about the level ofrisk for particular actions, so that their people do not treat high-riskactivities as low-risk or vice versa.In the training, you can start to deal with this issue by making theparticipants more aware of the criteria they use for analyzing risks. Puttogether small groups of people who work with each other on a regular basis. Askthem to come up with the criteria they normally use when they’re deciding howrisky a particular action is. Have them report back to you with a number ofspecific criteria, such as time factors, cost resources, and acceptability toupper management.Next, ask each group to look at three or four current actions they’reexploring and analyze the level of risk Ironically, even when they all use thesame criteria, almost invariably there will be differences of opinion about thelevel of risk.
Some people will habitually view most actions as high-risk, whileothers will normally do the opposite, regardless of the actual action they’reanalyzing. It is important for them to discuss the nature of the risk until theycome to consensus about the various actions.Personal resources are equally important to the development of anexceptional leader.
And having a Passion for the Work as well as a strong, clearVision are most often noted when people are asked to describe leaders theyadmire. The leader’s ability to inspire and project into the future help othersfeel worthwhile in their own work and have a sense of purpose. For some thevision is very specific; for others it is simple and direct. But more importantis the combination of words that work with actions so that others trust thevision and feel confident about its possibility. Small group exercises,including videotaping, help develop these concepts experientially.
Stretching One’s Personal CreativityWhen a leader is able to stretch personal creativity continually, it pullstogether all the other behaviors. They are willing to stretch out into newarenas and discover things they didn’t know before.In the training, participants are asked to write down a few work-relatedareas that they’ve wanted to know more about but haven’t taken the time toexplore. They then pick one of these areas and devote a certain amount of timeeach week (ten minutes a day, for example) to learning about it.
By taking thetime to expand their own horizons, they will also be demonstrating to theirpeople that the process of discovery matters. Being a role model in this areawill encourage their people to do the same.After reviewing the nine behaviors, the experiential exercises, andparticipants’ own definitions, each person should write out a contract in whichhe or she agrees to work on one or two of the nine behaviors on a daily basis.This is, in effect, an action plan that is as specific as possible.Training that results in negative or zero transfer is either detrimental orof no value to an organization from a cost/ benefit viewpoint.
It has beenestimated that only 10% of the money spent on training results in an actual andlasting behavioral change on the job.Fortunately there are a number of strategies that will enhance the transferof these new found skills to the work setting. Maximizing the similarity of thetraining situation and the job situation and providing as much experience andpractice with the job being taught. Follow-ups for at least a year will allowthem to review basic concepts and ensure that the training has not gone to waste.There are many programs that teach aspects of leadership and team growth.
Companies that specialize in this field can be found everywhere hostingworkshops and seminars. This type of hands on education has, in my experience,been the best tool for anyone who wants to grow and succeed.ReferencesCorporate Quality Universities, lessons in building a world-class work force(Richard D Irwin, INC.
, 1994)Conceptualizing Reflection in Teacher development (J. Calderhead and P. Gates,1993)Training and Development Yearbook, 1995/1996 (Prentice Hall, INC., 1995)Experienced based Training and Development, a professional group withinThe association of experiential Education2885 Aurora Ave., Suite 28Boulder, CO. 80303-2252(303)440-8844