Stop silo activity. How peer action learning sets can help managers

I have been facilitating an in-house action learning set in a large housing association with a number of different branches and businesses.  The set was formed from six middle managers who had a taster day first and then six sessions of action learning.  Each participant set individual learning goals which they shared with their peers and scored themselves against at the beginning and at the end of the sessions. Because they came from different parts of the business, not only did they support each other’s learning through the group processes, but they also learnt a lot more about the different parts of the company.  The result was they started to work out out how they could support each other across the business.  They are now learning to become a self-facilitating group, with my support during the first two and the final session in the series of six.  One set member has been promoted to another job elsewhere – one of his goals – and the others decided to continue without recruiting another person at this stage.

As a facilitator I have developed a great respect for these participants, their values, the difficult work they do and the range of skills they have developed to enable them to do their work even better – whether working with external clients; raising funds; managing businesses working with people with disabilities; or supporting tenants.

Feedback from the first experience of working in an action learning set includes:
“The arguments in favour of starting another (series of meetings for this same) group include:

  • offering an objective support mechanism for colleagues wrestling with challenging scenarios within their part of the business, often when they feel unable to share the issue with their day to day work group
  • potential to improve management skills – listening, problem solving, questioning, coaching, mentoring, facilitating…..
  • potential to improve the confidence and assertiveness of members of the group
  • opportunity to share different perspectives on issues within the organisation that affect all of us as managers – there is some degree of comfort in the old adage of ‘a problem shared’ etc
  • learning more about what other parts of the business really do
  • building working relationships outside of the group meetings”

and
“I have had positive feedback both from my line manager and the staff that I manage (better) especially about being more assertive”

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