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.

Its Good To Mix Things Up A Bit!

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A few weeks ago, in a regular client meeting one of the directors made a comment that has stuck in my mind since…. she said, “it’s good to mix things up a bit every so often”. We were talking about business changes that were happening, changes in personnel and a potential merger that looked likely to happen in 2020. Her reaction to all the changes that were happening impressed me because it wasn’t one of fear despite the uncertainty that was ahead regarding her own role. Some other people could have had an opposite response to the same set of circumstances. They could have been fearful and negative about all the changes and if they were vocal about their personal reaction then this could have rubbed off on other people involved who were perhaps themselves feeling uncertain about what the impact would be on them.

 I think we can all get comfortable, myself included especially when things are working relatively well, and life is ticking along. When this happens to me personally I do enjoy the stability for a while and there is the reassurance that you can work or live with relatively little pressure when you know what to expect and you are doing things well within your ability levels and capacity. Don’t get me wrong having periods in our life when we operate in this way are great and in fact needed as we don’t want to always be living in a pressurised, unpredictability way as this can be very stressful.

 The tricky thing I think is recognising when the time is right to “mix things up” or start doing something different or consider changing something that is working ok. They word OK is I think the key and is what I have been thinking about since hearing that phrase made by one of our clients a few weeks ago. A lot of the changes we have made to our business in the last year haven’t been triggered by things breaking or circumstances demanding we change. The changes we have made have been to things that were working OK, things that could have gone on in that way for many months or years and could have been still satisfactory. We decided to make the changes we did for a couple of reasons firstly we weren’t enjoying some projects anymore; the comfortable feeling was starting to tip into a feeling of dissatisfaction as we knew OK could have been great. The second reason was that we weren’t growing personally or professionally and when you are in the business of encouraging personal development role modelling the right behaviors is important.

 In finishing this, first post of 2020 at the turn of the year and decade, one question I will leave you with is this “Is there anything that would be good to mix up a bit in your life in 2020?” Go for it, take things from OK to great.

 

Reflection and Refine

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So it has been a while since the last blog post and for a few reasons.

As many people do at the turn of the year I use it as a chance to take stock and review how the last year went and what the plans for the new year are. This year I decided to extend this period of reflection a bit longer so that I could take advantage of a planned trip to Northern Goa in India that I had had scheduled for a while. For me to take two whole weeks out of my schedule is unusual as I normally have a lot of shorter breaks throughout the year.

There was a specific reason for this trip and if you are interested in learning more take a listen to the podcast episode at Itunes link to podcast  

So against my default programming I didn’t set any new year resolutions with the intention of using the space and downtime while away to decide what the focus of 2019 was going to be both professionally and personally.  I think the trip to India was quite a landmark event as it had been a personal goal for nearly 5 years and the fact that it was actually going to happen was meaningful in itself. My normal  reaction is “so what next” and I know I made the mistake once before in 2006 after completing the Ironman in that I immediately entered another one which in the end I had to pull out of due to injury – the real truth is it wasn’t meant to be I was just meant to do one event like that and originally that had been my intention I just got carried away with post race euphoria and the rest of my team mates rushing to fill in entry forms for the next event.

The two weeks away were soon over and still no obvious new goals were emerging just a few subtle tweaks to what I am already doing and the slow realisation that maybe that was all I needed to do just a bit of refining and refocusing. I fundamentally have the right things in place so there isn’t a need for major changes. There isn’t a obvious new big scary goal or shift I want to make at this time and that is ok what I have is a few areas of focus professionally and personally for the rest of the year , things that I am already doing but just take them to the next level starting with a slight tweak to the podcast in renaming it The Career Tree to expand the exploration of industries/jobs/ways of working to show what choices we all do have in the world of work. So watch this space as we refine what we do as we approach our twentieth year in business as Kudos. Now that is scary where has all that time has gone?