Leadership Development and Washing Machine Repair

February 21, 2018 by Wally Bock

Leadership development has a lot in common with learning to fix a washing machine. When mine started doing funny things last week, I hopped on the web and set up an appointment with a washing machine repair specialist.

Chris arrived in a truck emblazoned with his company name. “What is it this time?” he asked cheerfully. Chris has been here before. Then he asked me a series of questions, ran a couple of tests, and fixed the problem.

Once upon a time, Chris didn’t know how to do that. He learned the basics of his trade by taking classes. That was important grounding, and Chris’ company requires him to take classes to stay up to date on new models and features.

Formal training was only part of his learning. He worked side-by-side with a more experienced technician before he started handling calls on his own. After that, he learned mostly from experience, asking for help when he was puzzled or stuck.

Leadership development and three kinds of learning

Aspiring leaders should learn their craft the way Chris learned his. There will be formal training for the basics and refreshers. There should be guided on-the-job learning. And there will be pure learning from experience.

Leadership development and formal training

In the beginning, there should be formal training. Today we do a lot of this in classrooms in big chunks. We’d do better if we did the formal training in more and smaller chunks.

Leadership development and on-the-job learning

Learning to do leadership is harder than learning about leadership. We should have a field training period of a year or more where a new leader can learn from a more experienced leader and make a relatively easy transition to his or her new role.

Leadership development learning from experience

Everyone learns from experience and good leaders keep learning from experience. They’ll learn more if they’ve learned how to mine their own experience for ideas about how to do better. They’ll learn more if there are resources available when they hit a rough spot, or they’re puzzled about how to handle a tricky situation. Peer support networks (formal or not) and on-demand learning resources will that happen effectively.

Wally Bock is a coach, a writer and President of Three Star Leadership.

Posted in Leadership Development

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