Category Archives: Blog

Taking a Breather – the increasing trend for reflection

SA crop web2 keylineIn a recent Guardian article Oliver Burkeman wrote about “Breather” – a fabulous US initiative where you can rent space which offers “peace and quiet on demand”.  Breather space can be rented by the hour in many major US cities. This raises the question – why do we think of retreat and restoration as rare occurrences – such as the luxury of taking a long holiday or a mindfulness retreat?

We underestimate the value of restoration and reflection in our lives, whether this is work or more. Neuroscientific research shows that to function well mentally we should work for 60-90 minutes and then take a refreshing break. Yet very few manage this ideal in the fast paced 24/7 world of connectivity. (more…)

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Silence is golden

silence-390331__180I’ve been thinking about listening a lot recently, as I’m working with several new action learning sets. What I have noticed is that at the beginning of the set’s life, there is a strong drive to ask questions, sometimes at the expense of actually listening to what the person talking about their issue is saying. It’s not unusual at this stage for group members to ask leading questions based on their own experience, rather than exploring the issue-holder’s experience. Group members can also feel under pressure to fill pauses with a question – any question. As a result, the issue-holder may end up spinning between questions, unable to do their best thinking. (more…)

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Becoming a leader, and becoming uncertain…

leadershipA lot of the work I do at the moment seems to be within large corporate organisations and working, specifically, with people who are starting out on their leadership journey.  Or perhaps it would be better to say, starting out on their formal leadership journey.  When we explore their influences and formative stories it is often clear they’ve been a leader or, perhaps, been becoming a leader for a long time.
What is usually the case is that I find myself working with people who are moving into managerial positions, looking to push on to senior manager, and possibly partner.  We come together to work in action learning sets as part of their development on that journey. And often the people I am working with are quite sceptical about the process at first… (more…)

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The transformative power of action learning

For the past four years Action Learning Associates has worked with the Clore Social leadership Programme (Clore Social) to offer action learning as a core element of the first 12 months of their Fellowship programme. It is a space where Fellows can reflect on their leadership journey, share their experiences and learn from each other through applying the rigour and discipline of action learning to the challenges they encounter in this significant development year. (more…)

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Scaling up facilitator training for global organisations – new article published

Just published in Action Learning: Research & Practice an article co-written by Director Sonja Antell and Senior Associate John Heywood explores the challenges and successes of scaling up a programme of action learning facilitator training within a major global organisation.

The authors explore the many challenges of training 165 participants to facilitate action learning sets for First Line Managers (FLM) as part of a large scale leadership programme. The three year programme included face to face training in two languages as well as virtual action learning sets for follow on support and ILM accreditation.  As a result more than 1,800 FLMs across 35 countries have now experienced action learning.  There is evidence that a “ripple effect” of behaviour change has resulted within the company with staff using action learning skills in all areas of work – not just action learning sets and in ways that are against the cultural norm.

Among the many challenges faced was the diverse range of professional backgrounds and cultures meaning participants could range from highly educated professionals to people whose education had been severely affected by childhood experiences including civil war, living in a refugee camp or a culture of deceit.  Reflective learning – such a key element of the action learning process was also counter-cultural for some participants.

For further details and to download the article visit our articles page.

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Finding a creative approach to evaluating action learning

Wheel of LifeFirst of all I’ve had to overcome a stupid fear of doing a blog!  Why should I be so reluctant to do something new? I’ve had to do some action learning on myself to get to the bottom of it and…….guess what?  My fear is simply based on a ridiculous lack of confidence in anything to do with computers.  Eventually I established that writing a blog is simply, well…. writing and I’ve been doing that for years – so here goes…

At our annual ALA Associates Day, we spent some time looking at ways to evidence the benefits of action learning to potential clients.  We all know action learning works but how do you measure that? (more…)

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Action learning and vulnerability

daringgreatlybadgeI have been facilitating action learning sets for over ten years and remain as passionate about action learning as the day I first encountered it – in 1999 in a set facilitated by Sonja Antell, now Director of Action Learning Associates.

My experience was powerful partly because I am someone who loves process and I observed how the action learning process provides boundaries, safety, space and creativity to explore ‘stuff.  Also at that time I was in a role where I felt quite vulnerable and isolated within a large organisation and the action learning space enabled that vulnerability to be revealed and explored.

In all the sets I have facilitated since I am interested in the ways set members reveal their vulnerabilities and the way that the action learning process, and therefore the set, can honour that. (more…)

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Life changing aspects of action learning by Guest blogger, Lindsey West of Burnley Youth Theatre

Lindsey WestWow. I’m on the train back from three days of intensity in London where I have been training to become an accredited action learning facilitator. It has been eye-opening and amazing! For those of you who may not have encountered action learning before “it is a fantastic personal and professional development experience that improves your performance and helps you build new competencies, it promotes learning and self reflection and it helps you find alternative solutions in challenging and changing times.” Quite frankly, it is life changing! (more…)

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Commissioning in health and social care: Action Learning as a process to support leaders dealing with complexity and change

Reflecting on the current winter crisis in the NHS, manifesting in ‘critical incidents’ being declared by a number of Hospital Trusts, I was reminded how complex ‘leading’ in the NHS has become. The focus of this article is on how action learning can provide a powerful process to support NHS commissioners as they grapple with complexity, change and difficult choices. (more…)

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“My best Google result ever” – ALA’s taster workshops in action learning

Sonja Antell xs
ALA runs regular open taster workshops for people who are keen to try
action learning or for those who may be considering using action learning in their organisation and want to know more.

It is a slightly risky thing to do – the make-up of the group which attends is entirely arbitrary – made up of a wide cross section of people and professionals spanning a diverse range of organisations and businesses. A few already have a little experience of action learning and want to revisit; others have no experience at all.  Some are tasked with starting programmes in their organisations and just want to see what action learning involves. (more…)

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