As I sit at my desk at home whilst trying to develop my business, a couple of things keep coming to the front of my mind, but there is one question in particular I’d like to ask you.
Do the next generation of leaders still want traditional workshops where they are stuck in a room discussing what it takes to be a good leader or a good team member or do they require something different?
I am forever seeing posts from other consultants showing images of what a great workshop they have had with client X. Tables of people, post-it notes, flip chart paper stuck to the walls…you get the gist. Whilst I am delighted they are helping others improve, I am also a little disappointed that it’s the same thing everywhere I look.
I have no doubt that what is being delivered is great and I am sure the delegates are engaged at that moment. However, how do we really know if things are being taken on and implemented afterwards? Your employees are already a little stressed because they have been taken away from their desk and when they are provided with even more information to take on, how do you know if it is genuinely being stored in their long term memory?
There is a big difference in simply talking about it, to actually doing.
As a rugby player, I can’t tell you how many times I have sat through meetings where lots of information was given to us about the way we were going to play, but as soon as we were on the pitch, we made some glaring mistakes. I could be given a pattern of play to look at, but until I had done it in practice and experienced it for real, only then would I know what had happened and what I could do to make it better.
My point here is that, only when we have truly experienced something and gained sufficient feedback in the moment can we really store it in our long term memory to be able to act differently next time. If we are alert and very aware when we had the experience, we have a greater chance of being able to recall this at a later date. As a 20 year old walking into England camp for the first time, no amount of information could have prepared me for being completely ignored by 3 senior players when I said hello to them. I had to earn their respect ‘by doing’, I had to learn what it meant to be a leader ‘by doing’ and ultimately, I had to f**k up ‘by doing’.
As you can guess, I am nowhere near being a neuro-scientist, so perhaps I can try and explain this on a very basic level! The Multi Store Model by Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968) states that there is a 3 stage process to our memory: Sensory input, short term memory and long term memory. They state that when we observe something through one of our senses, we only have the capacity to hold up to between 5 and 9 things at once before our brains forget about them. Whilst this is great to avoid us being completely overloaded with information, the difficulty lies in retaining what is important. And here’s where our long term memory steps in.
As I said previously, most events and experiences that have an emotional attachment to them will be stored in our long term memory and so we can recall them at a later date.
In order to avoid the disappointment of sitting in a classroom in the hope that everyone picks up what is being said, and also to create memorable experiences, we use a different format: Use physical exercise to recreate daily situations that will often cause stress and understand how that impacts our ability to be good leaders on a daily basis.
Of course exercise has many benefits, but the most powerful thing about the program is being able to link the default reactions to daily life and create opportunities to think about what or how things could be better and improved. So when these situations arise in future, we are more able to retrieve what happened from the exercise and how we can react more positively.
If you have any comments, please get in touch. I would love to hear your thoughts on your own experiences of leadership coaching. And if you’re curious about how this works, please drop me a message. I’d love the opportunity to talk.