Experience is not the best teacher. It is evaluated experience that makes for truly developmental learning. For those of us who seek to intentionally develop others, especially leaders, helping them to evaluate their experiences will maximize the developmental opportunity.
David A. Kolb, an American educational theorist, captured a model on how adults learn. Later Peter Honey and Alan Mumford adapted model for use with a population of middle/senior managers in business. Here is their Learning Cycle with minor adaptations.
The Adult Learning Cycle
4 Phases of the Adult Learning Cycle
- Experience – The circumstances, people, responsibilities and opportunities that make up the reality of life.
- Reflection – People need to reflect on their experiences. Questions need to be asked about what happened and why it happened.
- Conclusion – Having reflected, the learner draws conclusions that form applications for future activity.
- Application – Applications form the basis of ongoing activities and experience.
Too often busy leaders fail to stop and reflect adequately upon their leadership experiences. One of a leader developer’s tools for helping others is the ability to cause busy leaders to stop long enough to adequately reflect upon their experiences. We do this by asking them questions. Becoming a good questioner is key to helping other adults learn from their experiences. But many fail to probe another’s experience by failing to ask. Why?
One of the greatest obstacles to overcome is the desire to talk about yourself and your own experiences. This self-centeredness flows from an inflated ego and an assumption that my experiences are more important than yours. We can ramble on and on about ourselves without seeming to take a breath and the listener, though hopefully polite, has really not benefited. You may feel good about the time, but it is a wasted opportunity for them to reflect upon their own experience because you lacked the self-control to shut up about yourself and listen to them.
Jesus asked hundreds of questions to those around Him, especially The Twelve leaders in training. Not one time was He asking for information! It was all for their benefit.
So, are you a ‘teller’ or an ‘asker?’ How you answer can determine how well you develop other leaders.