Professional Partner Content

Designing a Leadership Development Program That Is Experiential: Part I

I recently led a session at a conference that explored driving awareness through experiential leadership development programs. The point of the talk was that leaders need to have self-awareness, team awareness, organizational awareness, and business awareness, and that the best way to develop this awareness is through experiential learning. Business simulations were used as one example, but there are many ways to create an experiential learning environment.

Before looking at other examples of experiential learning activities and before designing a leadership development program that’s experiential, we must remember what is required in an experiential learning environment. When designing an experiential learning session these are some things you should keep in mind:

  • The learner is central. It’s about them, not you!
  • Group settings are crucial.
  • Allow them to learn from one another.
  • Mentor and coach one another.
  • Share thoughts, ideas, and knowledge with each other.
  • Facilitation must be light and subtle.
  • Act as a guide, not a teacher.
  • Do not lecture.
  • Ask questions and lead them to the learning opportunity.
  • Find or create experiential learning opportunities.
  • You cannot force them to learn.

Consider also the environment and activities.

  • They must feel safe to experiment and learn.
  • Remember this is for development, not selection.
  • Single events can enable several different learning effects.
  • Think of this as secondary objectives or outcomes that may occur aside from the main objective. For example, collaboration often pops up in group activities as a secondary objective.
  • Activities must be relevant and engaging.
  • How does it relate to their current or future job challenges?

If you can’t show how it's relevant to the learning objectives and their daily jobs, you will lose the transfer of learning.

  • If they aren’t engaged, they won’t learn.
  • Give them time for reflection to think about what they learned.
  • Ask stimulating questions that allow for thought.
  • Let them share what they learned with the group.
  • Let them share how they will use what they learned on the job.

You’re on your way to designing a leadership development program that’s experiential. In Part II, we will explore learning activities that can be used in experiential leadership development programs.
Joe LiVigni, Director, Training & Development, Capsim Management Simulations

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