The Characteristics of Extraordinary Leadership Workshops

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During the time we were living in Thailand, I remember shopping for a pair of jeans on one of our annual home leave visits back to the US and feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed by the vast number of options that had become available since the last time I bought some. This experience—an increase in options making it even more difficult to choose between them all—is very common to many other products and services, and leadership development programs are no exception.

There is no doubt that more and more leaders—and companies in general—are recognizing that without effective leadership, the return they get on their investment in systems and processes is greatly diminished. This has triggered a surge in the number of leadership training and development offerings in the past decade. It is, therefore, more important than ever to clearly identify your needs, and set a leadership development strategy in place when deciding which program(s) are right for your organization.

I don’t believe in one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter training and believe that whenever possible, the program should be tailored to the specific needs and mindset of the audience. I also believe that, while foundational training and development is invaluable, one need not break the bank to receive it; in most cases it can be done just as effectively at a lower cost at public workshops. Of course, no matter the venue or price point, the most important aspects of any workshop are the intricacies of the design and delivery which are what make all the difference in whether participants are simply introduced to some tools and concepts, or they truly get to experience a transformation. Today’s post offers some perspective on how to go about selecting the leadership development program that is right for you and your organization. 

My perspective is based on 30+ years of both attending and designing and delivering workshops in the US and in multiple countries across Europe and Asia. I firmly believe that anyone with an understanding of the core principles of effective leadership, regardless of their title or level of experience, would agree that the characteristics below are what distinguish a leadership development experience that is merely good from one which is truly great. With that said, I would certainly welcome and appreciate your thoughts on the subject in the comment section or via direct message.

Whether I am evaluating a workshop or designing and delivering one, the following key outcomes are what I consider to be essential: 

1. During the workshop
The participants clearly recognize the hidden obstacles they couldn’t see before and develop personal insights that transform their view of what’s possible, who they are, and what they are capable of doing.

2. Immediately after the workshop
The participants are energized and motivated to get in action toward creating the outcome that they are committed to.

3. A few weeks after the workshop 
The participants notice a shift in their behavior from the automatic default behaviors that didn’t serve them to new intentional behaviors that do.

4. A few months after the workshop
The participants can clearly articulate a shift in the results that they are producing and a marked improvement in their ability to influence and impact their organization through stronger relationships and partnerships.

No matter how well a workshop is designed and delivered, it is important that the participants take personal responsibility for getting the most out of the experience. As a presenter and facilitator, I consider it part of my responsibility to prepare the audience to take on their responsibility of maximizing the benefit they get from the workshop. The following is a partial list of the perspective I offer to the participants of my workshops to prepare them to get the most out of the experience. I would invite you to consider these any time you attend a learning experience.

To gain valuable insight during the session:

a. Have a purpose. 
Rather than aimlessly gathering information and hoping it will come in handy someday, start by picking a specific transformation you are out to cause and listen and participate with the intent to find useful lessons that apply to it.

b. Be coachable. 
This doesn’t mean you accept everything that you hear. It means that you are willing to try it on before you reject it.

c. Listen with the intent to attain wisdom and personal discernment. Gaining knowledge isn’t bad, but in most cases, it is not the lack of knowledge that is holding you back from delivering extraordinary results. Adding more theories and facts to a thought process that is not working for you will not help it work better. What will make a difference is looking for and addressing what is really getting in the way.

To develop motivation and energy to get in action:

a. Get in action on your new insight immediately. 
Fresh insights have an expiration date. If you don’t use them, you will add them to the pile of things that you have known for a while but that have not done you any good.

b. Renew your commitment to a cause greater than yourself.
Doing so energizes you to constantly seek ways to get better at doing what you need to do by transcending what you consider to be your limitations.

c. Declare your intentions to others.
Being accountable to the people around you causes you to stay in action, whether you're going to the gym or staying on a diet, it is no different when it comes to leadership. Use the power of accountability and make it your mission to not only be energized but to energize others around you.

To experience sustainable shifts in your behavior over time:

a. Embrace failure.
Falling short of stretching goals is normal and to be expected; a person’s reach should always exceed their grasp, they say. Accept that you will fall off the wagon, so that when you do, you don’t give in to your internal dialogue about how it wasn’t going to work anyway, and don’t give up on what you are committed to causing. If you take a bite of one brownie when you’re on a diet, just enjoy that one bite, and put it down instead of eating six more.

b. Don’t rely on discipline to stay on track.
Discipline isn’t fun and willpower is limited. While both are helpful to keep you from going off track, neither is enough to sustain transformation. Rely on your commitment to a worthy cause that presents a greater gain than the temptation to get off track.

c. Take the time to acknowledge how your new behaviors have contributed to your accomplishments, small and large.
Doing so will keep you energized to keep moving forward.

To create a shift in your results and level of influence:

a. Set stretching goals and get in the habit of celebrating milestones. 
Acknowledge your progress along the way, not just the moment when you cross the finish line. In most cases, there is no finish line.

b. Develop an abundance mentality.
Recognize that life is not a zero sum game. Actively make powerful requests of others and look for opportunities to contribute to them. Doing so will increase your influence personally, as well as help create synergy toward the results you are out to achieve. By making opportunities available in their world through powerful requests, you invite others to become part of the transformative vision you have set out to create.

c. Run your own race.
Evaluate your progress against your goals, instead of comparing yourself to others. Comparison is the root of all discontent, it is said, and the thief of joy. There is always someone who seems to be doing more and better than you, but this will not have one iota of impact on your results. Regardless of what you may think or how things may seem to be, the truth is that there is no one more equipped to handle your unique situation than you. Comparing yourself to others will not only diminish your sense of accomplishment, but also your ability to accomplish anything you set out to do. Remember that you are “the One” and it is not about you.

Both the designers/facilitators and participants of leadership development programs share responsibility for creating a space in workshops in which the participants gain insight that inspires and moves them to act. I have seen this happen countless times and I can tell you it is priceless! Next week, we will take a closer look at the characteristics of extraordinary leadership workshops that create these moments of truth for the participants.

The Bottom line:

When it comes to leadership, it is important to combine informative training with transformative training. The former arms you with knowledge and skills you didn’t have before, while the latter enables you to see that which you couldn’t see before. It is this insight cultivated by transformative training which is the key to most effectively using whatever knowledge and skills you currently have or will acquire in the future. Where the magic happens is in those rare moments of truth, when the combination of your knowledge and your unique insight compels you to truly commit yourself to a cause and boldly declare it, courageously pursue it, and not rest until you achieve it. 

About the Author
Amir Ghannad is an international keynote speaker, author of The Transformative Leader, leadership consultant, culture transformation champion, and founder of The Ghannad Group. He has made it his life's work to guide leaders and equip them with the tools, skills, and the mindset necessary to create extraordinary workplace cultures that deliver breakthrough results.
Download his free e-book, titled 5 Practical Steps to Make Your Culture Transformation Stick by clicking here.

As always, have a great week! May you Boldly Declare, Courageously Pursue, and Abundantly Achieve the Extraordinary!

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