Cohorts change culture more than programs do

Dr. Richard OsibanjoLynette Winter, PCC, MBA, and Nir Megnazi have a fantastic distillation of the power of learning through cohorts vs. training through classes. I saw this same set of factors in the work I led early in my career, which included a cohort program that ran for over 15 years, even after I had left the organization.

I was struck by an observation that when we had a technical issue in manufacturing, everyone ran into a conference room to figure out how to fix it, but when managers had problems, they ran back to their cubes and hoped they could fix it before anyone found out. It was embarrassing to admit they had a problem and didn’t know the answer.

We eventually created a leadership program that started with each leader identifying a future they were committed to creating (what some called a Vision or Mission) and a problem they were having in making that future happen. The problem could be influencing their leaders or partners, dealing with critical staff that lacked the capability to drive the needed changes or any other issues that arose because they were catalyzing change in an established system.

We had them pair up and share their challenge as part of a coaching module we used in the program. After 2 minutes each, I asked if anyone had heard a “dumb, easily addressable problem, or if they had heard a problem that they had never imagined or heard of?”. In dozens of cohorts, the answer was a resounding “NO!”.

We used that to drive home the lesson that leaders choose to take on challenges and that the greatest leaders are the ones who seek out help to find or develop answers. Hire the best people to be on your staff (I did that when I hired Lynette to join Robin Segerdahl on my staff), and don’t worry if one of them may someday be your boss. Hire a consultant to do work you don’t have the time or capacity to do (I did that by bringing in Steve Levin, who eventually showed me my future as an executive coach). Reach out to your boss or partners who have more experience early on to get insights about how to frame a problem or approach a solution. Reach out to your peers who may be struggling with similar issues or have networks or colleagues who have insights.

If you are committed to achieving your vision, you will be willing to ask for help, even if it’s uncomfortable.

Take a look at the wonderful lessons Richard, Lynette, and Nir highlight as you think about the power of your program to create a new culture that doesn’t just improve individual leadership but accelerates results across your entire organization.

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