Prepare Now for the Future of The Leadership Challenge® Facilitation

May 13, 2020

“I look to the future because that’s where I am going to spend my life.” —George Burns

We’ve gotta’ agree with George! However, the future is accelerating toward us with more uncertainty and with more variables than ever before. After spending several hours each of the past few weeks with colleagues who teach The Leadership Challenge® for a living, we have come to several conclusions about what the new world order has in store for us.
First, the classroom is changing.  As college professors adapt quickly to the reality that their entire teaching life now HAS to be online, many of us are tracking their efforts to see how we can adapt the two-day The Leadership Challenge Workshop—and even Facilitator Training—to make sense in the foreseeable future.
Several of our colleagues have jumped to the challenge of hosting the workshop online. Whether they’re planning a full two-day virtual experience, like that designed by Greg Allen and Ron Siers of Ascendant Global Leadership, or a more modular workshop spread out over three or four days, as is planned for Australia and Dubai by Debbie Nicol of “business en motion,” these leaders are experimenting with Zoom, other video delivery tools, and apps to make the most of the virtual facilitation experience.
As we gradually transition to the new normal, some of the learning from these sessions, as well as unique ideas we’ve seen from other leaders, will become even more commonplace. For example, look for these changes to come when delivering future in-person training sessions:

  • Table Set-Up: Rounds of five workshop participants will no doubt need to be replaced with rounds of three to ensure at least partial distancing in classrooms.
  • Safe Hygiene: Hand-sanitizer, wipes, and possibly masks which, were unheard of just a few months ago, will now become part of the standard offering—like Post-It notes and markers in our classrooms.
  • Size: Class sizes will likely decrease from 25 to 30 participants to 12 to 15 to ensure that people have enough space to move about freely without bumping into each other.
  • Pricing: Cost per person will increase because, as we know, it costs nearly the same to train a few people as it does to train a larger class.

Second, the move will not be toward a total virtual solution but rather toward more blended learning. Linda Anderson of The Denver Training Group says that she sees her teaching clients quickly moving toward an offering of some classroom learning balanced with virtual activities and pre-work. Says Linda, “Going forward, people will be clamoring for in-person contact, sharing, dialogue, and healthy exchanges of ideas—there is just no way that a total virtual solution fills that need.”

Many of our trusted colleagues agree with Linda, offering various ideas for what they believe blended learning of The Leadership Challenge Workshop will look like:

  • “(The workshop will) Require more upfront reading about key points that you will be making during class, so that your session discussions become more informed dialogue vs. discovery,” said colleague Chrystal Ensey, Senior Leader, Talent Management & Organizational Development at TruGreen. “Our typical pre-work used to take less than an hour to complete. Now, I envision that we will send out copies of The Leadership Challenge book in advance and ask everyone to read at least the first two chapters before they join the class.”
  • ​“The virtual part of the workshop, which used to be optional, will now become more popular than ever,” says Karen Atwell, Vice President of Talent Development for First Command Financial Services. “An upfront webinar explaining the LPI®: Leadership Practices Inventory® 360 will become imperative to ensure that participants are clear about how the assessment works. This will save email traffic and help ensure a more robust response to those seeking important feedback. Virtual follow-up sessions also will be used for reinforcing The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® along with in-person coaching to keep the energy alive for the content.”
  • KJ Jenison, Head of Learning and Development for Procore in Carpinteria, California, has been modifying his workshops toward a blended learning solution for the past couple of years. “Procore is a ‘bring-your-dog-to-class kind of place,’” KJ observed. "We are a people-first SaaS company that prides itself on promising every employee mastery, autonomy, and purpose. To that end, we felt uniquely prepared to adapt quickly to a fully virtual learning landscape. Before this, we already had in-class evals being done on mobile devices via QR codes and cohort-based Slack channels for continued learning and camaraderie. In going fully virtual, what we are leaning into now is modifying timing for a Zoom-based workshop and mixing in more deliberate practice."
  • Connie Stephens, President of HeadStart in Shanghai, China, runs a vibrant coaching and workshop consultancy based on The Leadership Challenge. She prefers WeChat as her platform of choice. “I love WeChat,” says Connie, “because it makes it so easy to form groups that can stay in close contact with each other after the class. As we move to our new reality, it will be harder and harder to get classes back together, but WeChat has great functionality, which allows groups to share photos, personal stories, quotes, and text messages—it’s kind of like Facebook, but easier. Every Leadership Challenge class that I complete stays in touch after the workshop using WeChat. We also are using Zoom, Teams, Xiao Er Tong, and Ding Ding, especially during this time.”

We also found colleagues who are already moving from traditional, in-person, one-on-one coaching toward a much more virtual platform. For example, Lisa Shannon, Certified Master-in-Training and President of Big Sky Bold, is an experienced LPI Coach who has always done the majority of her coaching online rather than in-person. “The tools today are just so much better for coaching,” she believes. “Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Go-To-Meeting are all wonderful platforms for sharing resources with those we coach.”  

In our practices, Harness Leadership and iLead Consulting, we also have been working with Moodle under the guidance of Certified Master Michael Curtis. This learning management system helps us guide Certified Masters-in-Training candidates virtually through a deeper dive into the seven key sections of The Leadership Challenge Workshop (which include Orienteering, The Five Practices, and LPI Coaching). Moodle allows participants to upload homework (values definitions, philosophy of leadership, vision message, etc.) into an interactive space. We find that these deep-dive coaching sessions, often led by Michael or other Certified Masters like Denise McDonald, make these coaching calls much more meaningful. Plus, uploads create documentation, which we can later review on follow-up calls, that allows for multiple coaches to keep in the loop. 

So, hang on to your hats, folks. Our world is changing quickly. We shared some of our predictions and the best practices of those who are on the front edge of blending technology with classroom training and coaching. However, we know that there are many more good ideas that could be tapped from facilitation experts around the world. And we encourage you to send us your thoughts at [email protected] and [email protected].  Perhaps we can set up a Zoom call to discuss with those who have an interest in a deeper discussion on the topic? Let us know!


Tom Pearce, Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge, is President of iLead Consulting & Training, a Global Training Partner based in McKinney, TX. He is passionate about facilitation, coaching, and mentoring others on their Leadership Challenge journeys and can be contacted at [email protected].

Renee Harness is a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge and founder of Harness Leadership, a Global Training Partner based in Indianapolis. She has utilized The Leadership Challenge Workshop and the LPI for over 20 years as a facilitator, coach, and mentor. She can be contacted at [email protected].


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