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A Day I will never forget...

I walked into the training room without any expectations, unaware that the events of the day would spark a passion that would last over 13 years – and that is still going strong! By the end of the workshop, I had had a profound learning experience and had solved a problem that I had been wrestling with for months. And that was the start of my love of Action Learning.

Action Learning is essentially a problem-solving forum, a place to bring those tricky issues that you just can't seem to solve. It uses non-judgemental, non-directive questioning to help a presenter (the person with the problem or opportunity) to explore and to reflect, and to ultimately identify solutions that they may not have come up with on their own. Action Learning Sets are groups of people who commit to the process of Action Learning, acting as ‘comrades in adversity’ - a phrase coined by the founder of Action Learning, Reg Revans.

Back to 2009 and I was a relatively new Training Manager trying to make the systems set up by my predecessors work in a post-recession environment. I had been trying (and failing) to market training courses to organisations already facing severe budget cuts and staffing issues. But no matter how my team and I approached it, nothing was working and we were cancelling unfilled courses on a weekly basis. It was costing us time and money. Something had to change.

On the training, it was soon my turn to present a problem for the group to support me with, I couldn’t decide if I should talk about this particular problem or not, because I felt that I had explored every avenue that was available to me. But that is the beauty of action learning… it takes us down paths that we wouldn't usually venture. It encourages us to step outside of our usual go-to responses, to think of things from a variety of perspectives, to challenge our beliefs about the situation and to really delve into what is holding us back.

So, I presented my problem, and I was blown away by the results. A turning point for me was the question ‘what would you do if you were starting from scratch?’, closely followed by ‘and what would happen if you took that action now?’. These questions were so simple, yet they were eye opening and I realised that I needed to be bold and to take the team in a completely new direction.

By the end of the set, I had a plan to implement the change I wanted to make, to influence the people I needed on board, and the confidence to see it through. All in under 30 minutes!

Fast-forward to today, and I’ve been a member of a regular set since 2012, joining not long after completing my Facilitator qualification. Since then, I’ve facilitated sets for a variety of organisations and have been passing on my enthusiasm for Action Learning by training new facilitators since 2015. No matter how many sets I’m involved in, I am still blown away by the power of the process and love to see the ‘lightbulb moments’ when they happen. That one day changed my way of thinking and solving problems forever, and I’ve never looked back.

And so, in true Action Learning style, I want to end by asking YOU a question - how might Action Learning help you and your team? Or perhaps it already has … …

Leaderful Action run an ilm endorsed Action Learning Facilitators Programme that can help you bring Action Learning to your team. For more information, get in touch

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