Leadership Development

At a listserv where I participate, a training consultant posted a dilemma about how to handle unruly participants at a leadership retreat.

Here's a snippet: "I faced one of the toughest groups EVER. Not only were they late every single day of a 3 day retreat, on days 2 and 3 they were hungover due to heavy drinking. They did not respond well to attempts to keep the discussion on track or to keep discussions concise. On the morning of day two, most of the group slept in and the director overruled me in front of the whole group and after that, it was hard to get cooperation. In the end the group ran WAY behind schedule and the recreational activity which was to have started at 1:00 to cap things off, got going at 4:30 and had to be truncated as some had to get to the airport."

My initial response was: "There is no reason (other than perhaps financial desperation) for you (or any of us in the T & OD field) to stand for such irresponsible, out-of-control, and insulting behavior."

What exactly should she have done? Let me answer this way.

One of the things that a parent does (hopefully) for her child is teach him to be a responsible person. My wife and I are working on this. Our sons are 17 and 16 years old. So far, so good. The feedback we get from their teachers, and from others outside the family, is that we have raised two fine young men. It's gratifying to hear. But I know my job as a parent isn't over yet.

What exactly have we been doing? In truth, muddling through, since there was no guide book (except Dr. Spock) or "Parent Effectiveness 101."

But when you stop and analyze it, we did what our parents did for us. They loved us, first and foremost. They provided a home and took care of the basics (i.e., food, shelter, etc.). They taught us stuff, from how to talk (e.g. the ABC's) to how to behave ("No elbows on the table.").

Then, they communicated their expectations, e.g. "clean up your room." Later, they followed up and inspected what they expected: "Terry, your room looks good. Isn't that better than before?"

When we did something dumb, they taught us about thinking (e.g. about consequences) and about making good choices.

When we were frustrated because we wanted something but couldn't get it, they taught us about patience, forbearance, and later about setting goals, planning, and saving.

When we let them down, or when we did not keep a promise, they confronted us and let us know how they felt about it.

When we hurt someone, they taught us about apologizing. And when we were hurt by someone, they taught us about forgiveness.

Over time, they taught us about being responsible, about making choices, about keeping commitments, about following through, and about respect (for oneself as well as for others).

What does this have to do with training and organizational development?

Everything.

What kind of leaders are we shaping? What kind of organizational cultures are we building?

My pastor, Fr. Doug, has a favorite saying: "Everything we do (or do not do) teaches."

In our professional practice, whether as internals or as external
consultants, what are we teaching?

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