Dealing with Reluctant Participants of the Leadership Challenge

Beth High

Q: Do you have any advice on how to deal with reluctant participants of The Leadership Challenge® Workshop? How do you respond to people who are attending because "my manager made me go."?

A: The reasons why people attend workshops are as varied as the people themselves, but how they arrive in the classroom does not have to be an indicator of how they will participate in class. One trick is to drill down into the concept of "Leadership is Everyone's Business." By getting people to think about and articulate why it is their business, you can start the shift from compliance to commitment. For individuals who have been sent by their manager, it is important for the manager to explain why he or she sees value in the experience. But, it's equally important to help people discover what value there is for them in becoming a better leader. The pre-work "What Do I Want To Accomplish?" is a great starting point. I have tried a new approach that may be useful when you're dealing with a group that seems more compliant than committed at the start. Ask them to state the challenges they face and the "takeaways" from class they think would best equip them to deal with the challenge. Post the challenges (anonymously) around the room and when the class begins, ask the participants to name a takeaway they think will help them face one of these challenges effectively. The result is a shared sense of common challenges and a great conversation around how effective leadership can help address those challenges.

Another tip comes by way of Master Facilitator L.J. Rose, "Ask the class how many are here because they were told to be." Quickly link to the role of the leader by asking if as a manager or a project leader, they have ever found themselves in a similar situation? How many have been handed something they didn't ask for and told to make the most of it. Chances are good every hand will go up. Remind them the choice of what you do with what you've been handed is always yours.

I believe values are at the heart of the issue. By helping the participants tap into what really matters to them, you create the environment for them to become fully engaged. It's not about your fancy facilitator footwork, but giving them a reason to join in the dance.

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