I recently participated in one of the best leadership experiences I have ever experienced to date as a faculty member for a Leadershape Institute cohort. I was very hesitant to commit to as it was also extremely time consuming. Our days were long, we started at 8:30 in the morning and finished each night between 11pm and midnight. I facilitated small group activities, delivered coaching conversations and accepted feedback into the wee hours of the night.
Let me tell you, I am one of those people that is usually in bed by 10pm. I need eight hours of sleep and I am heavily reliant on routines. But the long days were conducive to my learning experience. Why? In retrospect, I was more vulnerable. I wasn’t trying to maintain control of the situation. Being tired and worn out unknowingly lowered my guard and I was much more present, honest and authentic than usual. In fact, 90% of the students in my cohort told me that I was one of the most authentic facilitators they have ever met.
Have you ever been sent to a leadership development program designed to teach you how to be a better leader? If so, you probably met some of the most competitive people in life during these events. Everyone that is selected for these learning experiences wants to be the best as they are usually the cream of the crop. I have designed and facilitated dozens of these sessions. I have also been a participant in these sessions. In both roles, I strived to be perfect and noticed. I wanted to wear the best suit and make an impression, but for the wrong reasons.
My experience last week reiterated that these programs are not leadership development at all. They are corporate retreats where people can network, have fun and learn more about the business. There’s nothing wrong with that but these events are not creating better leaders. True leadership programs encourage authenticity and vulnerability so you can experience that big a-ha moment. Are you creating encouraging and forgiving learning environments? Don’t just jump to the data, ask your employees. If it’s not built into the programs, consider incorporating 1:1 coaching throughout the program from a neutral, encouraging, source (not a senior leader that has influence over that employee’s career). Enable the opportunity to grow without being judged. That’s the key to creating happier leaders.