Create leader and team resilience in organisations

Building of psychological and mental capacity through simulator training

3 September 2019

The simulator has just opened. We have a group of leaders with us on a farm in Denmark. They are divided into three different teams, in which all participants will take active part in leader and team roles. We have previously worked with the company’s HR team on the purpose of the process and what the leaders are to practice specifically in this 30-hour simulator – a simulator that contains six different scenarios, to build leadership capacity in the company. The overall aim of the simulator training is to build leadership capacity by developing resilience in various important areasi.

Leader resilience is the skills we see when leaders raise their emotional attentiveness, when they can regulate and preserve calmness under pressure, when they can think clearly when having to make decisions and when they manage with commitment and optimism in difficult situations, where the consequences are noticeable – or where they are able to make a strong comeback if they or their team does not succeed. Resilience is a core skill that can be learnt through interventions and is necessary for sustainable growth in modern-day complex organisations, which have to be borne by the people in the organisationii.

Simulator training as experience-based and active learning methodology

We traditionally know about training in a simulator from places such as the air force, the oil and gas industry, the police, the military and the hospital service. Preparedness to face and deal with dangerous or rare situations is practiced by playing through various realistic situations. And with good reason.

A recent meta-study concludes that simulator-based nurse education with clinical patient scenarios has stronger educational effects than traditional teaching in many different areasiii. At the same time, the effect depends on how accurately the simulator scenarios can reproduce realityiv.

Another meta-study in flight simulator training shows that use of simulators combined with general flight training consistently improves training compared with flight training alone. The effect is influenced here by the type of task and the volume and type of training performedv.

If we look at the area of business leadership, the research is quite sparse, particularly if we try to gather knowledge outside the digital platforms. In practice, however, more and more businesses are looking into simulator training as a learning methodology, because we train in a realistic setting, in a focused way and intensively within a short period of time.

We know from recent research that leadership training generally takes many forms and that it yields improved responses, learning, transfer and results depending on the design and the way in which we deliver and implement the leadership trainingvi. We therefore put great effort into working on designing and constructing leader simulators. We have only a quite small window available to us to deliver and implement change and building of leader capacity. On the other hand, the learning takes place at a faster pace and the changes are intense – and often unforgettable.

Explore, experiment and learn

One of the first things to do is to explore the organisational and learning-related aims of the intervention. Why do we want this? What challenges and risks does the business face? What is the goal – what capacity is necessary in the future? What must the leaders be able to do to attain this goal? Why is it that the particular learning methodology will be suitable for the purpose? How long is the simulator to last? How many scenarios are necessary? What principles of stress inoculation training can we use? What types of challenges and tasks are the leaders to face so that they experience both adversity and ability to overcome the situations successfully with learning and resilience in mind? What degree of complexity and realism must, and can we face to ensure an effective process? And how do we ensure transfer to everyday leadership along the way?

And we have to be prepared to experiment with the outcome. In principle it is a constructed or designed context for building organisational capacity and preparedness for change ahead. The various selected scenarios have to match an imagined and unpredictable future need. At the same time, the scenarios must permit the individual leader and his or her team to respond spontaneously to realistic challenges. And still without the choices they make and the behaviour they display having uncertain or costly (economic or social) consequences.

In terms of results we partly lose control because we cannot entirely predict the future, the presence or the effect. This is slightly different from the (KPI) targeted development of skills we traditionally build in at leadership academies where many leaders must learn the same thing. But here too we are starting to change the learning methodology and are now including simulator elements as separate modules or learning blocks. In doing so, we work more with unpredictability, because it is people who act and help to shape the scenarios with various approaches and yields. Better leadership arises through autonomy-supporting, active and instructive learning – a playful form of learning that builds on design-build- test-learn principles. This matches those organisations of the future, which are in the process of rearranging themselves and that prioritise the unpredictable development of people.

The steps that make simulator training work

What specifically makes the simulator training work is constant and active testing of the roles (mastering), prompting feedback from several angles (evaluations and ideas for alternative behaviour), instructor observation (behaviour viewed in a professional light) and reflection (expanded thinking) in relation to what is difficult in the situation, the consequences and how the situation was overcome.

This is done by conducting a joint debriefing just after each individual scenario closes. The team gives feedback to itself on its team performance and the person who took the role of leader. In addition, one-to-one instructor feedback is provided in the more personal areas in a confidential conversation. Hasty and incorrect choices are part of the learning process. When the next scenario opens, it becomes natural to transfer what has been learnt to the team and to the next leader, who will have to master a different kind of task and challenge. He or she will usually be motivated for even better problem- solving, and this matches the game as complexity and degree of difficulty in this next iteration will now be raised in the design’s obstructions as well as in the solution requirements.

My experience is that over five to six scenarios in a row the participants build an upward learning spiral in the personal area as well as the joint area. The learning curve is steep. As a leader one is under training oneself (learning to lead oneself and others in the situation), in other scenarios one is a team participant (experiencing the effect of leadership, and testing oneself as a contributor to teamwork and being led) and one is constantly involved in the feedback and reflections of others (mirroring in the development of others). I will call it a combined or a ‘folded learning set-up’. The leaders do not roleplay but make active use of themselves to solve challenging and realistic tasks in a less expensive ‘safe room’. Experience in the organisations of reality will take a long time to gather but has been made possible here by compressed learning and constant real-time performance feedback, followed by reflection that supports the accelerating learning element.

We work consciously and professionally with people

In my own team at the farm in Denmark we are two management consultants and two HR employees from the company we are collaborating with. Together we have responsibility for taking each individual leader through resilience training, which is to increase capacity to lead and regulate oneself and be able to engage more flexibly and effectively in complex and challenging contexts. We also have responsibility for building up team resilience, the leaders together being able to overcome the adversities they meet along the way through experience, understanding of choices and real-time consequences and which processes might optimise the teamwork. This requires us as the managing expert team in the simulator to be familiar with the business, have good communication skills, be able to facilitate group decisions, conduct debriefing sessions and be flexible here and now when the situation demands. Whenever we bring people together, we know they will respond in unpredictable and complex waysvii.

As a management consultant working with business psychology, I have a lot of experience with human complexity, personal leadership dimensions and change of relationships in leader groups and teams. I am trained in decoding personality traits, mental patterns, emotional intelligence, body language, narratives, interactions and keeping an eye on strengths and potential. This is important to be able to foster awareness of thoughts, emotions and behaviour, when influencing well-being, collaboration, conflicts and team dynamics among people who try to perform and move towards a common goal. Supported by research-based psychology I have knowledge of what can pressurise and challenge people in organisations, and how it is possible to help them through processes. We work with human beings in the simulator, and the human insight, experience and ethics are necessary.

We are each separately ready for our roles

This time it is my colleague who acts as gamemaster. He therefore has overall responsibility for guiding the process that has been developed for the purpose and for making overall adjustments to the game along the way if they become necessary. I myself take the role of instructor together with the two HR employees from the company. We are each responsible for monitoring our own team to ensure the local and maximum outcome from the process. It is essential that as instructors, we do not share our knowledge, expertise and experience, but to a greater extent ask stimulating questions that foster the leaders’ self-driven actions and self-reflection. The leaders will obviously ask us questions along the way, but we will primarily remain in the observing role. The answers lie in their own team and coping, and solutions have to arise from within. If we have something that we can add to learning and development, we typically do not supply this until the debriefing or in a one-to-one conversation afterwards.

We are all each separately prepared for our roles, without knowing entirely where the 30 hours will take us. The simulation is a dynamic and live game consisting of human beings, which means that all responding processes are uncontrollable. This is a natural part of human interaction, and the complexity of the task arises when patterns and themes become apparent along the way in the process of change, by the participants responding to each otherviii. A complexity that is far more diffuse and more noticeable than if we worked on a digital platform, which is merely another, more controllable simulator format. It is a format that addresses some leadership development aims, but not the current task, which calls for a set-up of live interaction, and in which we for example also include background actors from outside. This demands our full attention, agility and mental flexibility from start to finish to a different degree than if we worked on the digital platforms. Both on the stage and behind the scenes we must be quick and make constant decisions to ensure optimal learning conditions for the participants. We become involved in realistic live scenarios in primitive surroundings, where leaders, leadership and teamwork are played out interactively indoors and outdoors for the next 30 hours. We are ready.

On the farm in Denmark – looking into a leader simulator

The stage is set. We are in process. The first scenario is open. I have established a good rapport with my team of leaders within the first 7 seconds and am now sitting a little at a distance. All the men in the team are experienced, successful in their line of business and over the age of 50. They now know that they each separately have to drive the team through a difficult task. Each individual leader has understood that he has to lead his own colleagues within the next 30 hours.

I note that this request to perform leads to nervousness and tension across the table. Everyone would like to master the task, I assume. Some of them talk about making mistakes, and about that being OK, others merely nod in silence. They agree on the aim to ‘to leave here with the experience of becoming better leaders’, rather than ‘taking part in a course that just has to be ticked off’. You’ve come to just the right place, I think to myself with a smile and make a note.

Psychological safety supports the team’s learning

I get to know my team very quickly. I observe who naturally takes leadership of the group and what the pattern of communication is like. The personalities and preferences are very different. Most of the team members are passive, and one individual is very progressive in his participation. That team member is the one I depict below, and he is the one who has been assigned the role of first team leader. He has to establish the team and insists from the start that ‘we have to be honest’ and continues ‘I’m not usually too good at that’. Two others quickly latch onto this statement with a nod, and comment that neither are they. In that way they show themselves to each other as vulnerable from the outset, and the team also agrees that ‘one has to dare say 1 on a scale of 1 to 5’ in their evaluation of each other.

I reflect on the fact that the leader’s insistence on honesty and his subsequent openness about his own weakness may help in creating what is known as psychological safety. In brief, this is the belief that one is not judged negatively by others in the team if one talks out loud about one’s ideas, concerns and mistakes. It is therefore a matter of whether one dares to take interpersonal risks, and that depends entirely on expectation of the response from the others in the team. In that way it differs from trust, which functions in a one-to-one relationship. We know from research studies that psychological safety supports the team’s learning and performance in contexts that are characterised by complexity, creativity and creation of meaningix. Psychological safety and being able to freely express both positive and negative emotions are essential components of team resiliencex. So far so good, I think, the team is in process.

The balance between leading and taking over

The leader actually displays quite good leadership during the first scenario. He involves the team, while giving clear and unambiguous guidance: ‘I would probably take that route!’ He sums up the discussions: ‘Shall we agree that...?’ He re-frames: ‘what we are discussing right now is that...’, and he challenges the team’s ambition: ‘well, better leadership, but that’s difficult to measure!’ The team is quite clearly challenged by a different kind of task, by the unfamiliar surroundings, by the lack of information, and by the fact that they cannot predict what the leader roles require, because they do not yet know what the challenges are. Like in a complex reality, I think, while they are talking. It requires something special from the team.

At the same time, several members of the team are pressured by the process itself. I can hear that the leader’s focus on them as a collaborating team does not come naturally to the others. They have a little difficulty finding words and sentences. Normally these men are focused on business, turnover and operation. If the conversation moves in this direction, they feel more comfortable. But the leader steers the discussion back to the team language. Through constant involvement and a few questions (that he often answers himself, however), he is able to maintain steady optimism in a team that is not characterised by many words, inputs or particularly high energy in a broad perspective. From my position as observer, I cautiously form a hypothesis that what I am following is a ‘quiet and reticent team’. The leader is distinguished by having a different personality and a different energy. And here he is particularly challenged. He needs a far higher level of response, reaction, energy and tempo from the team to function well.

The risk is that he will become frustrated and take over, not making use of the team’s resources but solving the tasks himself. I often see that in the real world, when leaders think it is quicker and easier to do the whole thing themselves and ultimately bear too much on their own shoulders while at the same time experiencing the effect of a demotivated team. I note that, and I work on it tactically in a later scenario.

We put words to experiences and feelings

The most notable outcome of their team reflection is their common surprise over how quickly they have got to know each other. If the leader concerned had not been brave and insisted on the conversation about the relational aspect and been open enough to reveal his own lack of ability to be honest, it probably would not have reached that point, I think.

We talk together about how challenging the person-to-person conversation is for them, but also about the value of creating joint expectations at that level, and how they can come closer to each other by talking about these aspects. How they, as managers, can establish team norms at the deeper levels, so that the members of the team actually come to a perception of being on a wavelength person-to-person and combined as a unit. We finally put into words their experiences of what they have just been through, the associated feelings, what it does to the individual, and how they can use the experience actively and positively in the next scenario or in the next learning situation.

We take some of the discussion further, other parts I include in the one-to-one during debriefing. Here I challenge them quite differently. And because we are in a simulator without interruptions from the outside world, each element becomes extremely intensive and present for the individual leader.

We adjust development areas and test behaviour

When the leader from this first scenario attends the one-to-one debriefing, I test my hypothesis that as a leader he differs from the team, and it is precisely the energy in the team that has put him under pressure. That makes him irritated and impatient. We adjust his development goals so that he can focus on regulating his urge to take over and the irritation about it going too slowly. I keep him on a tight rein.

We play through several scenarios both outdoors and indoors with different associated themes. We make overall adjustments to the game along the way, and it is well placed because I need to detach the leader from my team. He has to encounter resistance from a similar leader elsewhere, and the team has to have deployed someone who reminds them of themselves. The quality of the team’s learning is otherwise too low. I would like to know how he participates together with others and see how the team ensures energy and initiative without him. From there I am in regular contact with the other instructor, who receives the leader, and at the same time I can learn about all the nuances in the team and their widely differing ways of leading.

The leader returns to the team in the next scenario. Although I now have a new leader and the team under observation, I make sure at the same time to point out to the returned leader if he falls into taking over too much with consequences for the team. For example, he detaches himself from the team in the middle of a joint discussion and quickly writes down an action plan for them, which they are otherwise developing together at a joint level – at a very slow pace. However, he puts down his pen, because he becomes aware from my discreet signals of what he is doing. His sounds, body language and behaviour are quite clear to me when he finds it difficult to withstand the pressure.

We keep in regular contact, and he is quite clearly challenged in his development goal through several scenarios in which he does not have the role of leader but acts as a team member with even less assigned power of action. In that way his personal challenge is tested from various angles and he starts giving me signals when it is most difficult. When that happens, he corrects his thoughts and behaviour himself, as we have agreed, and gradually he finds his own action strategies and ways of coping and tackling it. Precisely here he develops resilience skills through a process of continuous adversity and learning, and I can clearly see and feel his battle. Through the use of empathy, I know where he is psychologically and functionally, and I increase and reduce the pressure to keep him exposed or in the development zone and consequently help him through to his mastery success.

I constantly challenge the power of motivation

I know that the leader must experience being able to make self-determined choices in order to feel engaged and motivated to lead. Occasionally, however, I limit his scope for autonomy, if I give him an instruction or impose a restriction to see how he reacts and then give him back the choice. At the same time, I know that he has to be able to maintain his belief in being able to master the situation, to feel motivated to continue with the challenges. Sometimes I make it almost impossible for him in order to put pressure on him, but I still give him space to enable him to cope with it, nevertheless.

I know that he has to feel connected to the team in order to maintain his motivation. Sometimes I detach him from the team, I can divide them up or deliberately push towards conflict-filled themes, but I nevertheless make sure that he fundamentally feels that he belongs to the team. I let the same thing happen at team level, where I work with the combined motivational power as either obstructions or elements of drive. This is done at all times consciously and tactically and based in what we know works from researchxi.

The last scenario requires flexibility

As an instructor I am in regular contact with the gamemaster who has to have a complete overview and the other two instructors who likewise work locally with their team. After several scenarios with changing participants in the role of leader, we have now reached the last one, and since one of the leaders has to be on again, they draw lots. It is the leader from the first scenario who has to act in the role of leader again. Now I am the one who is under pressure!

It becomes clear to me at that same moment that something striking has to be done if I am to ensure maximum learning for my team and, in particular, the first leader. That is my responsibility. The first leader has a complete grip of how he can resolve the scenario and the task, and it will not generate great learning for any of them. I now know the team. I am therefore compelled to adjust the game locally here and now so that we do not end up in the same pattern again. I discuss my thoughts with the gamemaster and the other instructors. I need extra pressure on my team. It is difficult for me to find a solution so that everyone takes away optimal learning from the last scenario, and I quickly think through various options while we are talking about it. Suddenly I have it!

After the gamemaster has briefed about the last task, I take the leader aside. I explain to him that I am a little disappointed with the team’s energy and performance so far and that I know that they can deliver far better on both parameters. Precisely this, that he must now ensure the self-driven motivation in the team and have everyone deliver the utmost, causes him to gaze at me with wide-open eyes followed by a despairing look. He is under pressure now.

He has a complex leadership task and it is challenging him. I acknowledge his concerns, his leadership abilities and tell him that I am quite sure he is the leader who can do this. I am not responding to his signal that it will be difficult. I have already as an instructor gained his empathy long ago and I now just let the silence between us work until he regains the feeling of control. Slowly his gaze is replaced by a little smile of gratitude. He is well aware of what I am doing to him, it seems fair enough and he now accepts both the challenge and the task with his head held high. I have his nonverbal commitment.

There is agreement on what I am asking of his leadership, and his self-regulating coping responses are set in motion. He does not yet know that I will be challenging him further, once we are under way with the scenario.

I actively and tactically use ‘disruption’ as a method

The manager sits aside, thinks everything through and draws up a battle plan. He then gathers his team. He is very firm. He makes sure that the team understands the task. He delegates tasks and gets people started. It is again good leadership that I am witnessing. However, I also note how he occasionally forgets to keep his impulse control and takes too much control. The team is spread out. Some of them are producing something. Another team member is practising a conversation with a background actor located outside the farm and he needs some sparring from the leader to be able to perform. Another member has gone into action by himself with a plan that no one else knows about.

I follow the leader constantly and again require better delivery from him so that he has to face his team members. In the attempt to ensure motivation in his team, I see him almost overdo the effort, so that he resembles a handball coach in the heat of a game. Without doubt it creates energy and spontaneous fighting spirit, but when I notice the strained expression on the face of one of the team members I take a time-out with the leader and get him to reflect on his leadership style and on whether it actually leads to motivation or performance anxiety. When he adapts and tries out a different leadership style, I create yet another obstruction by making him spontaneously have to re-organise his team. The team member who has practised the conversation is replaced by another member just before the conversation takes place. This disrupts team relationships, and once again I put the leader’s choices and decisions under pressure – he has to think clearly and act with agility in a way that works for the team members without them being demotivated as a result.

I myself am highly focused on the micro-details and quite aware of the leader’s behaviour and the (learning) impact of this among the individual team members. The leader and I have already established a trusting relationship, where we understand implicitly that we are working together on what we are at the farm for. We are learning partners. I therefore have the permission to disrupt him often with questions, new information, demands for quality, while seeing, hearing and perceiving the whole time whether the level of pressure is suitable for him and the team. The level of complexity is high, and he first leads one team member and then another. He is busy, and I follow him everywhere, unless I need to hear what is being talked about in the team when he is not present. This is where the true value of leadership behaviour is often found. It is constant evaluation on my part. I move with the team and make sure that everyone is on board. Indoor and outdoor, where they have spread.

While he as leader is working through the pressure well, the team also develops through the tasks that he gives them, and that they must carry out under strict requirements in terms of time and quality. The tasks they receive from the leader are defined against the backdrop of my requirements and expectations for his deliveries and results, which he must bring about through the team. The team members man up and also find their ways of dealing with it when he puts them under pressure, and in that way I have ensured a dual process, in which both parties develop within the goal and framework.

We finish the simulator training and debrief

At the deadline everyone delivers at a quite high level with the resources that are available. At a quality that is far higher than their previous deliveries. The level of energy is now high, and they give each other happy, loud and boisterous high-fives all the way around the team. They are proud of what they have produced.

The leader is relieved and looks at me with a wry smile. We laugh together. We both know what he has been through and that he has encountered the right adversity based on an extremely well-meaning intention. Now is the time to take a breath and start the last debriefing and team feedback.

We talk through the challenges, the leadership and the teamwork they have just experienced and that took place under a lot of pressure. We reached precisely the point we were meant to reach in those 30 hours. The training has consisted of instructions, self-instructional training, self-regulation and disruptions. They have all received valuable feedback in a ‘safe room’ provided just after each scenario, and they give many examples of why they think they have become better leaders.

The awareness and readiness training has equipped them to overcome similar situations in the future, and they automatically ‘weave back threads’ to their everyday leadership when we talk about adversities and possible barriers to using coping behaviours and ways to address such barriers. They now know tendencies and ways of overcoming hindrances far better than previously, and this also qualifies them for new personal and managerial development goals. They have learnt from their own experiences and from colleagues, supplemented with the tools and models that have been added in different illustrative and explanatory ways for use in reflection and more abstract meaning making. This is what I will call active and experience-based learning and development of leader resilience.

I high-five and hug all the leaders in the team, who I acknowledge for their understanding of the game, their great effort and their considerate and generous ways of behaving. Always an expedient way of concluding an interaction as part of the tactical face-keeping work when something has been at stakexii. And I make sure that they make positive self-attributions or take credit for the success and mastery experiences. Then there is a final debriefing, high-fives and hugs for my own team. We are pleased with the result, we clear the rooms, turn off the lights and shut down the simulator. Tomorrow a new day begins with new leaders on new development journeys.

Agility and development of resilience among leaders

As a management consultant I find that companies to an ever-increasing degree consider managerial and team-based resilience to be necessary. We can understand psychological resilience as the human flexibility and ability to adapt that matches the more agile ways of pursuing projects and business management today. Here we need organisational capacity and individual capability to be able to withstand pressure, be able to move quickly, change direction and land safely again at the same time as, and not at the cost of, preserving well-being and engagement.

The leaders’ ongoing choices determine what the simulator becomes

The simulator combines learning processes and development of resilience, and it is a good mix. We know from research that simulator-based games inform and teach the participants about the complexity of business practice, and that it is an effective way of developing decision-making and leaders’ skillsxiii,xiv. With experience-based design, understanding of theory is toned down in favour of difficult and realistic situations the participants have to act on here and now. However, minor inputs of theory can be integrated by simple means into the actual design, other times theory arises spontaneously as an explanatory mechanism or inspiration during debriefing (experienced consultants are used to improvising with specialist knowledge), or it may be that the theories only exist behind the stage in the designer room.

The purpose decides the design, and at the same time it is the leaders’ choices in situ that decide whether improvisation is to take place with theoretical models, the level is to be changed, the conditions are to be adjusted (obstructions) or the specific goals a participant pursues along the way are challenged.

It requires overview, a close focus and rapid response to micro-details that continuously arise from the team. As an instructor I slacken the reins and I tighten the reins back again at the right times in a balance between demands that are slightly too high and suitable demands. By that, the simulator also develops simultaneously as a kind of learning track that forms in the various experience-based iterations – agile learning at its very best, I would say.

It is always a pleasure to see how the level of learning accelerates, capacity is built up and the quality of leadership and results in task-solving are raised substantially over the hours that pass, when the leaders battle through one challenge after another. The high energy, short-term goals, the productive aspect and the intense dynamics of the resilience strategies together with the iterative reflections and feedback open the way to readiness for learning, insights and creativity in the solutions.

We create resilience through human insight

From my psychological professional perspective, I make sure that the leaders learn to understand themselves and others through human insight and thereby become more aware of it. They sense their self-worth, they listen to the inner voice, they experience their own energy, they make use of habits and routine behaviour and become more aware of it. At the same time, the leaders have to be able to understand what, deep down, carries a team through the waters, safely back into the boat if it capsizes and ready for the next wave. They feel the psychological safety in the team, they see status and position at stake, they experience bravery and passivity, they communicate with one another and become more aware of it.

I am the one who is responsible for facilitating development of the team members’ resilience, and I therefore have to be able to activate mental and emotional reactions, which the various personalities have to regulate along the way. Tactically, I put participants under pressure in an ongoing collaborative and decision- making exercise structure around the selected business issues under which they act. Influenced by thoughts, feelings, motivation and interaction, the leaders are compelled to break down and act on difficult and complex problems, while learning the whole time through quick feedback and reflection how they have actually coped, or potentially can cope, successfully through various stressors.

It is essential to reflect on the execution of tasks, action and leader identity. An effective and simple question for reflection or dialogue is always: ‘What am I up to?’ And to the team: ‘What are we up to?’ It is in this way, in an interwoven arrangement of the concrete and the abstract and of action and identity, that we identify the right mental and behavioural strategies that develop resilience.

When the leaders achieve increased awareness and human insight, it creates increased preparedness to be able to drive oneself and others in change. The intention with the leader simulator is to create a deep understanding of both human and task-oriented processes through iterations where they are challenged – plan – act – make mistakes – reflect – learn – carry out better leadership. We pick up learning from the world of experience, which arises through the continuous strategies where the leaders’ actions, decisions and solutions to problems emerge individually and jointly in progression towards stronger and stronger leadership.

Learning does not take place through instruction, as we traditionally know it from a classroom – instruction that in the best case leaves the individual with a ‘toolbox’ that the person concerned has to be able to transfer and motivate himself with in a busy everyday situation. I believe it is time to replace both the demand and the flow of ‘tools’ with something else. At the farm in Denmark we work with active learning, and we work in a live and experience-based way. Feelings, consequences of behaviour and training results can be sensed here and now, at the same time as we are steadily building leadership capacity. It happens because we lay on repeated layers of experience and transfer – while being right in the middle of the whole thing. This requires us to relinquish control for a while and take risks because we are on a live stage, where we without doubt create fun, energetic and rewarding leader training to the benefit of both the person and the organisation.


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xiv Wood, R. E., Beckmann, J. F. & Birney, D. P. (2009). Simulations, learning and real world capabilities. Education and Training, 41: 491-510.

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