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April 29, 2021

Reading Time: 4 minutes

What is Experiential Leadership (and How it Works) – Education of Performance Managers is best guided by the workplace reality and workplace culture. Creation of case studies that reflect Experience will supports managers in adopting the most effective leadership techniques to channel team’s pride and engagement.

Image: National Gallery of Ireland – Creative Commons Project – “Christ Disputing with the Doctors”
Artist: Master of the Annunciation to the Shepherds, c.1604-1656

Many management strategies are overly reliant on models build upon static personality traits research: from the well-researched OCEAN model and psychometric testing, to 360 reviews and Gallop’s Strength Clifton Strength Online assessment. 

While extremely useful for an individual to embark in the journey of self-awareness and reflection, “a growing body of evidence shows that personality traits aren’t necessarily consistent from one situation to the next” (HBR, “Persuading the Unpersuadable, Magazine March–April 2021, Adam Grant).

What is Experiential Leadership?

Experiential Leadership is an over archiving framework which stems directly from the theory of Experiential Learning.  Experiential Leadership grounds Managers’ learning in the workplace reality and it inspires supervisors to adjust performance management programmes to reflect existing workplace experience as lived by the individual and the organisation. 

How Does Experiential Leadership Work?

Let’s take the example of managing performance by considering emotional labour. Emotional labour is defined by the specific behaviours outlined by the organisation which an employee is required to apply in a specific situation. Instructions like “always greet a client with a smile”, “maintain your calm under stress” are commonly prescribed behaviours. 

Often – the workplace emotional behaviour required is contrary to that which a person actually believes. Consider the scenario of an organisation who provides support to the un-employed.  A worker who is engaging with a client who is plainly sabotaging opportunities to become employed with be required to remain a behaviour which is supportive, open and understanding. If the client was a family member, the clerk might in fact consider necessary to do an intervention of sort and remove the support

Emotional labour cannot be easily quantified or prescribed – apply level 10 of supportive response (!); furthermore, and social attitudes to questions like un-employment change over time and differ between generations. 

The management of teams employed in highly demanding emotional labour roles is best achieved by building performance management on real life experience. The manager education must be based on relevant case studies and real-life examples accessible via the workplace direct experience. Experiential Leadership supports each worker in understanding own position and define the personal effort – the manager is to apply a generic “guideline that prescribes behaviour” and ensure that each member of staff is supported. 

Real Life illustrations are the core of Experiential Leadership: they facilitate every leader to learn by generating the best response according to the specific experience at hand by mirroring a comparable event. The manager is not adapting leadership and communication responses by extrapolating ideas from generic the personality traits of the employees; nor on supposed personal preference of management style.

Experiential Leadership requires the manager and the organisation to reflect before any action is taken and performance standard defined. It is likely that specific scenarios will form over time and these can be used as blue prints. 

Scenarios and case studies that repeat over time are created by the habitual nature of human begins rather than been based on traits or models. When we identify a path, which is efficient and works, we tent to re-adapt that behaviour and it can become a habit. Habits are based on situations and nurture, environment and experience. While traits and psychometric testing is pushing the conversation towards “nature”, experiential leadership is asking to adapt skills and competence to the case at hand with its peculiarity and specificity. 

Foundation of shared value

The role of the People Managers and Leaders is to guarantee that the most valuable organisational assess, its people, are striving to share success with the organisation. 

While not all roles are generating vocational stimulation, it can be generalised that most people share the value of pride in one’s own work.  Managers should adjust their management and communication styles by looking at the workplace through the prism of pride at work as a critical motivator. 

Pride in one’s work can be both Intrinsic as well as extrinsic motivator – to be self-guiding or to be guided by wanting to earn the respect of peers and colleague or professional community at large.

To do a job, any job, at the best of one’s own ability is often critical for all employees. Understanding that “one’s own ability” changes over time and according to situation it crucial. 

Educating Leaders via Experiential Leadership methods is to “allow people to enter various life situations that are otherwise not accessed by them, to experiment with various situations or roles and to explore their reactions to their new situation – Experiential Learning – A best practice Handbook for Educators and Trainers – Colin Beard, John P Wilson.

3 Top Tips to apply Experiential Leadership in Performance Management

    1. Managers are to be attentive of their past experiences which resemble a current situation 
      1. Adopting a Management Journal can support manager to create a case study as well as ensure that fact-based memory is not changed by fallacy of remembering.
      2.  “What worked” and “What did not work” reflections prove useful and straightforward.
    2. When direct personal experience is not available, the manager is to identify a comparable situation or case study. 
      1. Access to senior mentors is crucial. Mentors can be inside the organisation or experience Management educators who are able to share relevant experience.
    3. Manager will share direct experience/learned experience with the team/employee and discuss together how the performance choices and communication used may be suitable and provided the desired results
  • Management of performance is linked to the work at hand and manager and team member together are to identify the best route to providing the highest quality of work that one can achieve at the specific time and place

Where the manager or the organisation are facing an unexpected and new situation – let’s consider the disruption that COVID-19 pandemic has recently generated – it is again via a consultative process of discovery that the Experiential Leadership model will become apparent. This approach will ensure that when a team member has a comparable experience the manager is guided from within to define and support best practice towards performance management. 

8 Categories for Experiential Leadership Training

At Symposium Learning we have identified 8 categories that represent the most common performance circumstances (categories) and experiences in the workplace.

Click here to download the Outline.

March 2, 2021

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Are we discussing sufficiently about the personal biases we bring to the workplace? The limited reaction to the resignation of KPMG chairman 2 weeks ago seems to suggest we actually don’t.
Bias is non-useful knowledge that we carry in the workplace. Learning how to break the link is a crucial first step to allow for new behaviours to occur.

I was expecting hundreds of posts in the past 15 days covering the leaked statement by KPMG UK Chairman about the ineffectiveness of unconscious bias training.
Instead, I was welcomed by a surprising silence.

The #unconsciousbias and # bias Google Searches give little fresh results, and so did searchers on LinkedIn and Twitter posts.

According to the HBR article in 2019 “(..) research also shows that bias prevention programs rarely deliver. And some companies don’t invest in them at all.” Article from Mail Online talks about how unconscious bias might make things worse; article form the Telegraphs reports that also the English Civil Service has stopped receiving trainings on this topic.

Plenty of debates, training and programmes are offered on inclusion, diversity equality and equity. Actions and strategies to support a diverse workforce, recruitment practices and promotion are published. As a modern workforce we seem to have clear the strategy that by simply adding perspective and diversity we can create innovation.

However, do we really understand perspective without the concept of bias? Are we focusing our efforts on how to be inclusive leaving out the why we seek exclusion?

Bias is a powerful decision-making tool that our evolution has fine-tuned to provide immediate and tangible results. Bias is knowledge – knowledge that we have acquired as we matured from childhood into adults. It is the knowledge we have attained without reflecting on its accuracy by implicitly trusting the source. Bias is what our parents believed the world to be and this includes social and economic class, religion choices, cultural interests.

Our cultural zeitgeist informs our bias.

Unconscious bias is cumulative unrevised knowledge – knowledge for which we no longer trace back the ultimate source.

The fact that they are unaware or disinterred on how we have come to a decision is framed as unconscious – even if the real term that best describes it is covert or unabridged.

Unconscious Bias Trainings are revisions of choices and actions in the workplace – like CV selection – that aim to bring to attention how some of our choices stem can from our biased. The trainings aim to show how this bias replaces our free choices – age stereotyping for specific job roles.

To provide employees with learning opportunities on how past knowledge influences decisions at work and, subsequentially, with information on how to move past them is an important step to accomplish.

Why then Mr. Michaels and other Senior managers believe that such learning opportunities are ineffective?

It can be argued that a shared learning experience that exposes prejudice is not the most favourable way as we would naturally feel embarrassed. By not engaging with the discovery openly the opportunity for learning (and change) is missed.

Some trainings bring forward prejudices that impact our choices outside the work place. Values and morality impact the private self – only practical workplace examples should be given of when bias happen.

A key challenge for organisations is to support employees and managers to more forward and make decisions in “unbiased” as well as effective and timely manners. It is not enough to recognise once preference when delegating which might be based on a pre-conceived notion of skills and aptitudes. It is also necessary to know what else can be used to make choices and take action. If bias is an implicit error of judgement and my decisions lack equilibrium – we then need to learn what equilibrium is.

From what I read I understand that Bill Michael’s resignations from KPMG is linked to a series of comments made in the course of the same company meeting, not only to those referred to Unconscious Bias Training.

FT reports his words to be “There is no such thing as unconscious bias (…) because after every single unconscious bias training that has ever been done, nothing’s ever improved. So unless you care, you actually won’t change (…)

And there is some truth in that caring to change is a key component of all form of learning and the understanding that bias is personal and that common workplace do not strive if the workforce is extremely homogenous and sharing the same values.

The key of unconscious training is to bring to the individual attention the link there is between one’s own values and bias in the workplace.

Once the unplanned link and broken further earning on empathy, decision-making will sustain the will to change and stamp out the fear that naturally comes when realising that not all the knowledge we have acquired is actually useful.

To progress your self – education