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Bonus Focus - Immersion: The Behavior-Changing Training Solution


By RD Kosor

Traditional training methods have proven quite successful in building practical, necessary management skills. Managing transactions, handling details and paperwork and knowing the necessary detailed information to execute specific tasks are topics that are trained well in classroom or book-learning environments. Even while adult learning theories have explained the need for engagement during training, the details necessary to be successful managers are still best taught by rote. That does not, however, prove true for specialized training topics such as leadership.

The difference between the two types of learning lies in the impact either has on people. Management skills primarily impact the bottom line. Leadership skills impact both the bottom line and the people in the organization. Training someone to lead others requires reaching deep into the core of his being, awakening a sense of self-awareness, breaking negative habits and perceptions, and rebuilding new behaviors that positively impact others around him. To truly affect that kind of change, learning in a classroom environment simply won’t cut it.

Research, since Kolb’s definition of experiential learning in 1984, has supported the efficacy of removing people from their professional environments, immersing them into experiences, and tying the decisions they make to lessons necessary in professional practice. Training from an experiential perspective provides learners the ability to break free of old habits, acknowledge the difference between what they perceive to be reality and what really occurred, and build new behaviors that align with the curriculum being taught.

Take transformational leadership training for example. Approaching something that relies heavily on a person’s passionate vision for the future and then translating that into the ability to motivate others, innovate solutions and consider individual diversity is best done from an immersed training environment. For example, you can immerse leaders into entirely new cultures, permitting them open access to people they are absolutely unfamiliar with and granting them the ability to experience the differences between the groups first-hand. The lessons they take away include such things as communicating across cultures, considering alternative perspectives in decision-making, and unlocking diverse talents inherent in other cultures. Each of these abilities is a key component of transformational leadership effectiveness on the job.

Providing employees training shows them that you are investing in their professional runways. Providing your positive deviants – those employees who, when given the same resources as their peers, consistently out-perform their cohort by positively deviating from the status quo – with immersive transformational leadership training in an experiential learning environment shows them that you are serious about building an internal legacy of leadership…and that they are indeed a part of it.

RD Kosor is veteran small business owner and PhD candidate who specializes in transformational leadership, developing positive psychological capital, and the identification of positive deviants. She can be reached at


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