Throwaway planning in a training context

If things only would be simple, we could plan our way into the future and work out the way we predicted…

Most processes where people are involved have some “universal laws”, but are chaotic at the same time. My experience is that it’s all about paradoxes and you’re missing out on something when things seem simple. “Improvisers can up their odds by “practicing” with paradoxes and thereby prepare themselves, tactically and emotionally, to improvise when the stakes are raised.” (Mirvis, 1998). How does this work out in giving leadership trainings? How can you develop a program in a unpredictable environment?

Teaching vs Learning
When I started as a leadership trainer at de Baak I prepared myself by making a rather detailed program which I followed during the day. I could tell you at what time we would do what, and when people would start crying about their past… This gave my trainings a lot of structure, and because it wasn’t a bad plan most participants were pleased afterwards. I was sometimes even a bit amused because I had less conflicts and sometimes even higher grades than my senior colleagues. My ego was on a roll. I think that this approach of detailed planning would still work in programs where teaching (knowledge and skills) has the focus. I tell how the world works, and you follow. A followers program.

But when I developed and really wanted to develop leadership and entrepreneurship I noticed that I had to give people space to develop their own insights, and had to let go of my detailed planning. Training programs nevertheless have a timeframe, so there is some pressure to accelerate the learning process. If we would have all the time in the world, we wouldn’t go to training programs. So I had to create a situation or space in which learning took place without knowing in detail how this would look like. The contradiction of uncomfortable space. The relationship between myself as a trainer and the participant changed from a vertical (dominant) to a horizontal (equal) encounter. What is your leadership all about, and what’s in your way? (B)

Of course, with experience I can sometimes predict what will happen during the program and sometimes even foresee what issues an individual will encounter, but how and when will always emerge in the process. My ego is in the way if I think otherwise (A).

Figure: Contact is not letting your ego get into the way

Uncomfortable safeness
The uncomfortable space where training takes place is often called the Stretch Zone. And every participant tells at the beginning of the program (s)he wants to be there. Why would they be in a training setting otherwise? My experience is nevertheless that unconsciously nobody really wants to go there because it is scary to put your old paradigms aside. So how to create uncomfortable safeness?
First I think that only the participant can open the door, and the trainer is there to support this. Secondly I think that the participant must have the confidence that things will turn out fine. You can support this feeling with a set program, but when things get really uncomfortable they will look for that certainty at the leader (which is the trainer in this case). My experience is that when I’m confident, even with chaotic situations, the group can stay in the tension without wanting an escape. A program will be discussed. My personal confidence is build on knowledge but foremost my experiences from the past. I can improvise and use my intuition because these situations are not really new for me (read also: Leybourne, the role of intuition and improvisation in project management, 2006). Just a bit different.. For me this is “holding the space”. Giving room for what’s needed, and support it without controlling.

Throwaway Planning
I still make a planning for each training I give, and write down a lot of possible exercises that I can use. They give me confidence when I start the training, even with the knowledge I will throw away half of it.

Plaats jouw visie of vraag


  Omschrijving Profiel Duur Investering