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3 Tips for Getting the Most out of your Action Learning Project

  • 4 Min Read

Feeling Lost in your HIPO Program? Action Learning Programs are a great methodology for leadership development.

If you’re a participant in a HIPO (high potential) program, there’s a good chance that you’re participating in an Action Learning Project (ALP) as part of that program. Using Action Learning Projects as a means of developing leaders is a very popular development methodology.

They generally consist of several components:

  • a real and important challenge to the company
  • a diverse team
  • a space and process that supports the practicing of new skills
  • a challenge that forces the group to work towards a defined outcome
  • an assumed goal of learning and growing throughout the process

The premise that the participants experience the project with a high level of independence (with ad hoc external support and coaching from managers, sponsors, and program lead) in order for the learning to occur is clear—although it’s often frustrating for project members. 

Maybe you can relate?

Are you part of an action learning project and not too sure you’re developing as planned?

Consider these three tips!

Practice, Practice, Practice!

The premise of the action learning project is that you are offered a “real life” opportunity to practice and develop your leadership. Based on previously identified opportunities for improvement (e.g. feedback or 360 results) and consistent dialogue and support from your manager, you are meant to be pursuing your own leadership development objective throughout the life cycle of the action learning project.

Are you taking the opportunity to connect those dots and PRACTICE? 

At any given moment, I ask you to consider the following:

What would your “best self” do?

  • Not getting enough feedback? Ask for it.
  • Feel like the same two to three people do all the talking? Speak up.
  • Don’t love how the team is functioning? Propose a solution.
  • Feel disrespected by a fellow participant? Have a difficult conversation.
  • Not clear on the purpose of the project? Connect with your sponsors.

In your action learning project group, you are surrounded by a cohort of participants who are on a similar journey. Take this safe opportunity to practice and develop some of the skills that you identified early on as needing development.

Center, Center, Center!

Feeling frazzled? Disconnected? Lost? Breathe. And take some time to re-center and refocus yourself.

  • Start with your previously identified area for development. What one or two key developmental aspects did you commit to working on? What were those competencies? Reconsider your original plan. Is it still meaningful?
  • Review any DiSC/Myers Briggs/conflict/personality assessment results (and those of your project team members). How might your communication preferences be impacting your ability to take initiative and get the most out of the action learning project?
  • Review the team norms that your team committed to (um, you set team norms, right?). How actively engaged and committed to those norms have you been? Why or why not?
  • Review any notes you may have on any “content-type” sessions that you have offered throughout your HIPO program—Project Management 101, Crucial Conversations, Situational Leadership, etc.
  • To refocus your energy, speak with your manager, program leads or sponsors about your goals for the program.

Reflect, Reflect, Reflect!

Self-reflection is a key component to effective development. Look back to your role and participation to date in your action learning project.

  • What have you learned about yourself and your leadership?
  • When you consider the one to two development areas you planned to focus on, what work have you done? Where did you take the opportunity to work on those competencies, and where did an opportunity fly by? Have you reached out for feedback and support? Why or why not? Have you reached out for coaching on those particular competencies? Why or why not?
  • What have you done to influence and participate and engage in the process? What have you not done?
  • Consider writing your future self a letter to be opened at the end of your program. Consider asking yourself some self-reflection questions (What did you learn? What are you most proud of?). Share some hopes that you might have for yourself. Consider what goals you hope to have achieved. Give the letter to your program leads or sponsors for safe keeping.

Finally, be selfish.

This is your experience! Own it! Initiate! If you were chosen to participate in an action learning project, your company has spoken! They see something in you and in your ability to influence and achieve awesome outcomes. Follow the three tips above and ensure you’re getting the most out of this developmental opportunity.

And check out these core skills that new managers need to succeed:


This post was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse

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