Action Learning Sets – Revisited

Each UK Lockdown during these COVID times I decided to set myself a project so that I could look back in years to come with memories of having used the time productively.

In Lockdown 1 last March it was to finish book number 2 The Evergreen Executive and I also became a big Netflix fan. In Lockdown 2 , November 2020, the project was to revamp my home yoga/zen room and cook more nutritious healthy meals from scratch. Now as we approach the end of Lockdown 3 the project has been Action Learning with some fellow professional coaches which has proved to be both insightful and fun.

The term Action Learning crossed my path for the first time while I was working for Hewlett Packard in the 80’s and 90’s where as part of our leadership development and process improvement training we worked together to share best practices and support each other solve work related problems as a group. The way we have been using Action Learnings Sets in 2021 though has been with a slightly different twist, we have been using the methodology to keep refining our skills as professional executive coaches by investing in our own development. There is a danger, when the day job involves helping numerous people achieve their goals, increase self awareness, move though personal change, embed new habits or in this era find new roles quickly, us coaches don’t make enough time for our own personal growth. I am pleased to report that UK Lockdown 3 has proved to be very productive from this standpoint as all 3 of us in our mini Action Learning Set are nearing the end of 8 weeks of online learning in a variety of topics. What has made it fun and enjoyable has largely been down to our weekly Zoom meetings where we have taken ourselves through the action learning cycle above, challenged each other, shared successes and difficulties on route and most important of all held ourselves accountable to each other and the programme of learning. There were times when I didnt want to use my non working time to watch online video tutorials, read books or do assignments however knowing we had a weekly Action Learning Group meeting where we all had to report into each other on actvities and progress did work from a motivation perspective. In addition it was useful to discuss the difficulties we sometimes had as well as this made it easier at times not to be too hard on ourselves as well.

The concept of the action learning cycle can be powerful used individually as a reflective exercise by itself but its much more fun if you work with others to learn from different experiences and about alternative actions taken even given the same content shared by all. Next time you embark on a piece of learning consider setting up your own Action Learning Set with a few people undergoing the same journey it might add another powerful dimension to your experience.