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. Here are five of my favorite questions to ask leaders about a recent leadership experience.
- What did you learn about yourself from this experience?
- What did about your God from this experience?
- What did you learn about leadership from this experience?
- If you were to repeat this experience, what would you do again and why?
- If you were to repeat this experience, what would you not do again and why?
These simple questions will cause a person to stop and think carefully about their life and leadership and help them arrive at good conclusions. They ‘why’ part of the final two questions is most insightful as it helps us understand their reasoning and values.
So, are you a ‘teller’ or an ‘asker?’ How you answer can determine how well you develop other adults.