- David V. Day The Difficulties of Learning From Experience and the Need for Deliberate Practice Industrial and Organizational Psychology 3: 2010
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Countering the assault of the wild
Competing demands can wear down self-esteem and our ability to learn. A leader who recently completed a small group learning experience, told me: “I can be hard on myself in assessing my leadership abilities. It is comforting to know that my colleagues, who I respect enormously, struggle with the same things.”
To counter the assault of the wild requires a strong habit of thinking about work situations in a steady and systematic way. Here is an example of such reflective practice in action.
Learning in the wild
A leader came to me for consultation after struggling for months with a manager who reports to her whose authoritative behavior had been alienating her team. The overwhelm of work usually got in the way of taking time with the manager to give feedback. Brief attempts at feedback that were fit in whenever the leader could do it went nowhere. The leader would at times feel she herself was bad at leadership or like the manager just needed to be fired.
Over 30 minutes, as the leader and I talked, the noise of the Wild receded into the background. With guidance, the leader got back in touch with how much this manager’s behavior was hurting her team. That renewed her motivation and determination to intervene.
With facilitation, she gradually rediscovered her own principles about giving feedback. The best words to use with the manager then just spontaneously occurred to her. The next day, she took action and, with steady attention over time, the manager’s performance improved.
In this case, as happens sometimes, the impact of the Wild was so tenacious that outside help was needed for successful situational reflection. But, you can do a lot on your own. Below the video are links to additional resources to help you develop your reflective practice.
Holding the line between our worst and our best
How could this skilled leader seem to forget things as basic as her motivation or how to give feedback? The Wilds of organizational life make it difficult to stay in touch with our own wisdom.
That 30 minutes of reflection time saved the leader from even more months of being stalled or from taking extreme action by abruptly firing her manager. Just a bit of reflection time may be the difference between causing unnecessary harm and being at our best.