Trainers as Leaders in a World Without Boxes

Steve Coats, co-author of There Is No Box: Discovering the Internal Character Needed to Achieve Groundbreaking Growth, offered trainers great food for thought during his Sonoma Learning Systems’ webinar (“There Is No Box”) this morning: they—we—live, work, and serve in the same figurative place inhabited by leaders.
Summarizing one of the main themes of his book, Coats was describing what he and his co-author, Tom Heuer, found among leaders they studied: they don’t worry about thinking outside the box because they don’t even acknowledge the existence of the box as a limiting factor in their lives. Leaders frequently move from the comfort zone into the learning zone and somehow manage to avoid propelling themselves further, into what Coats and Heuer call “the panic zone.”
“The true leaders reside in the Learning Zone. It is the place where exploration, innovation, improvement, risk-taking and growth are normal,” Coats and Heuer contend in their book (pp. 35-36). “People who value learning are not afraid of moving out into the unknown. They know that some uncomfortable time spent in the Learning Zone is the price to be paid in order to ultimately arrive at a better destination.”
And there it is, for trainers everywhere: working in that familiar learning zone where creative and effective leaders tend to gather reminds us that trainers have an often overlooked leadership role to play within any organization, including the libraries with which so many of us are familiar. We thrive on that “uncomfortable time” in that learning zone; it helps us learn from and function as leaders for those who learn from us.
It is, we heard from Coats, all about a willingness to take risks, explore and share our passions, and lead ourselves and those whom we train into the most rewarding and productive place: the growth zone. If we are willing to climb out onto the limb of change, and encourage others to follow us there, then we, they, and the organizations and clients we all assist, ultimately are the winners.