This loop typically has four distinct phases: (1) Deciding what to do (2) Doing it (3) Reflecting upon the results and (4) Connecting those lessons back to the next decision. In terms of learning new skills – it works.
To change the on-the-job behavior and the performance of leaders however, we believe that you need more than action-learning. You need to get real work done and get real feedback from executives.
To make a measurable impact on the business, leadership action-learning programs should contain three elements:
- Real Work & Real Success Metrics: Ensure that your leaders are working on important strategic initiatives critical to the success of the company. This takes away any excuse that they “have better things to do.” It also helps to move the business forward – the job of any leader. One recent client designed a program to develop the next generation of leaders while identifying and implementing projects to drive $6m+ to the company’s bottom-line. The goal was important, doable, and motivating. The end result: $13m in twelve months. Not a bad return on investment.
- Just-in-Time Tools, Performance Coaching & Feedback: While the decide-do-reflect-connect loop works well in terms of practicing and learning a new skill, it works even better when it comes to turning those skills into increased performance. Ensure that you build in just-in-time tools, executive support, and frequent feedback to change behavior and get results. We can emphasize this point enough - performance coaching from outside experts and internal executives makes all the difference.
- Visibility & Performance Pressure: Creating the right environment for your action-learning teams to succeed means creating just enough positive performance pressure to help leaders get the job done. Push for visibility, transparency, and clarity. Ensure well-defined and aligned goals, roles, responsibilities, and processes in order to set the team up to succeed. One recent client used weekly online dashboards and monthly progress reports to the board to provide input and create accountability.