Sustaining Leadership Development Through Self-Directed Learning

"Leaders over the next 30 years will face greater challenges and levels of complexity than have ever been seen before - yet leadership development is not growing at the same pace as the challenges faced and there is a shortage of leadership development that connects the strategic, functional and personal levels".

Professor Peter Hawkins: Henley Business School

The bad news is that traditional leadership development approaches alone are unlikely to help. The good news is that, based on our extensive research and experience, we know that self-directed learning can!

Before outlining some thoughts for HR Developers on getting started, here's a snapshot from a parallel universe.

Did you enjoy the course?

An HR Director addresses the senior managers' meeting: "Earlier this year as part of our development programme all managers attended a Coaching Skills course; how effective has this been?"

"It was alright; the course evaluation sheets were very positive". The Operations Director added, "Some of my managers spoke highly of the course. They said it was really well run".

The HR Director persisted, "Yes, but how effective has it been - has the learning been used and if so has it made any difference to the business?"

The general opinion was that because of work-loads there had not been much opportunity to put the learning into practice. But, tellingly, one director said "Let's face it, coaching isn't high on most managers' priorities. We are not that sort of company".

"Just remind me, why did we invest in this programme?" asked the MD.

Just to be absolutely clear, at Wadenhoe we are strong advocates of coaching in all forms, but clearly in this example the decision to embark on this series of workshops was not consciously derived from either the current or future challenges facing the business.

Self-Directed Learning

Learning and development is energised when the focus shifts from:

Low Priority
High Priority
Learning led
Performance led
Feed me, "lazy"
Effort - working at it
Good enough
Perfection - getting it right
Original source: "Auditing Natural Learning" Research - Dr. Roger Stuart - The Wadenhoe Centre 2001 & updated by The Wadenhoe Consultancy Ltd. © 2010

Clearly these factors are more likely to be addressed when an individual is fully engaged with the process. Couple this with the other statistic from our research - that 80% of learning does not take place in a formal training environment and there is a convincing case for HR Developers to focus more time on self-directed learning methods, with the additional advantage of minimum intervention and maximum impact.

Moving beyond the principle

The idea of Self-directed learning is often discussed in the context of training and development. However, what it actual means and how to create the culture for it to happen is rarely clearly explained.

This is where HR can make a big impact on the business, by understanding the emotional, motivational and other blocks that people might have to learning and then facilitating the implementation of effective self-directed learning.

To help with this, we have again drawn on our "Auditing Natural Learning" research to develop a workshop which produces a personalised framework for learning and development, that can be maintained to cope with new challenges and opportunities.

Working with HR developers we have significant experience of tailoring these workshops to people and organisations, based around this core content:

  • Natural learning styles
  • Personal learning "timeline" and implications for future learning and development
  • Developing a self-driven, real-time approach to learning and development
       (using a personalised Wadenhoe Model®)
  • Overcoming personal blocks and barriers
  • Adapting, making connections and widening understanding
  • Building and sustaining a broad personal network of support and challenge
  • Action plans for capitalising on all learning/development opportunities

  • Every member of our Engagement Team is equipped to provide 1:1 coaching and/or introductory workshops, which are then sustainable by the organisation. To learn more about the team please click here.

    To arrange a conversation about our work in this area and a summary of the underpinning research, please contact:

    The Wadenhoe Consultancy Ltd

    Prama House
    267 Banbury Road
    OX2 7HT

    Phone: 01865 339558
    Mobile: 07899 796993
    Fax: 01865 339301

    Registered in England No: 6717860

    ©2012 The Wadenhoe Consultancy Ltd