Watching leaders engaged in leadership training can leave us with wonderful lessons. Seeing how they present their material can make us better trainers.
Jim Kouzes (co-author of the recently released fourth edition of The Leadership Challenge), Roy Pollock (co-author of Fort Hill Company’s The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning), and Michael Papay III (vice-president of Fort Hill) were the key presenters this week at Sonoma Learning Systems’ Redefining Leadership Development Best Practices Forum in Walnut Creek. Kouzes, in an engaging summary of The Leadership Challenge, told audience members that his research consistently shows family members, teachers, and coaches to be our most important leader role models; that the one quality differentiating leaders from other credible people is being “forward-looking”; and that leadership develops over many years, not in one-day or one-week-long workshops–an obvious point which is often forgotten when students return from training sessions and have no time to digest and think about how to use what they have learned.
Pollock, echoing the theme that “becoming a leader is a life’s work,” insisted that workshops are only part of the learning process. The preparation a student completes before attending leadership training sessions, and the effort a student makes in a supportive workplace to use what was learned, combine to make leadership workshops effective. Papay, to drive the point home, described Fort Hill’s practice augmenting leadership training sessions with brief weekly email follow-ups to trainees and their supervisors for up to three months. The emails and the interactions they inspire increase the likelihood that lessons will be absorbed and applied so leaders-in-training continue developing the skills needed to benefit the organizations they serve.
While conveying the lessons they were attempting to teach this week, all three presenters used simple and effective techniques. They remained engaged with all members of their audience by moving throughout the room rather than remaining tethered to their laptops or a lectern at the front of the room. Their PowerPoint slides added to rather than repeated what they said. The presence of a visual facilitator enhanced the learning experience. And they used one-page handouts containing key questions they would answer: “who are the most important leader role models in our lives?”; “what differentiates highly-effective leadership training programs from less effective ones?”; and several others. By recording the answers which came out of speaker-audience interactions, participants were more likely to remember what they heard, and they were actively involved in creating the printed reminders which they might later use.