One of the reasons that action-learning is so effective with leaders is that it places executives in the right environment at the right time to learn, practice, and improve.
When designing your leadership action-learning program, ensure your simulations, projects, coaching, and scenarios are in the right zone.
- The Comfort Zone: Consider this zone to be neutral. Participants are comfortable and proficient with what they know and how they do it. Most of us operate in the comfort zone the majority of the time. Because it consists of the skills, capabilities, and abilities where leaders already excel, it is not very conducive to learning. To grow leaders, stay out of the stagnant comfort zone.
- The Panic Zone: I feel comfortable mountain biking down steep trails that my wife considers crazy. For me, it is a comfort zone. For my wife, it is a panic zone. Zones are personal and situational. The panic zone causes too much anxiety, stress, and discouragement. Like the comfort zone, leaders do not develop in the panic zone. If you push too far, too fast, you will lose them.
- The Learning Zone: Sandwiched between the panic zone and the comfort zone is the learning zone. This is the sweet spot for effective leadership programs. It contains the perfect amount of creative tension for growth. Skills and abilities that are “just doable” create motivation for mastery while encouraging participants to stretch and “go beyond.”