July 26, 2023


How can L&D managers ensure that participants returning from leadership programmes implement their learning in a way that has an immediate, positive impact on them, their team and the wider business? Too often leadership development programmes start with generic leadership theories and models, expecting participants to work out how to apply these new skills in the real world for themselves, often without the support and understanding of their team or line manager.  

A more effective approach is to design leadership programmes that allow – as far as possible – real work to be done within the programme. This allows participants to practice their new skills and behaviours on real-life situations, ensuring smoother transfer of learning. We’re talking about programmes designed on the principles of learning in the flow of work. 


Learning in the flow of delivers immediate impact 


Make the learning real right from the start – bring real work into the programme.
We’re talking immediate impact here because participants are practicing their newly learned leadership skills and behaviours on real-life work scenarios. Take the Executive team who during their leadership programme decided to introduce 20-minute ‘focus sessions’ into their existing weekly meeting. In these sessions they agreed to put away all distractions and work on being
totally present so they could focus on the big conversations and large scale business decisions. It was a game changer for them, and the whole organisation who went on to adopt this practice.


Learn through real time observation and feedback
asking participants to lead a real team meeting, observed by programme facilitators and coaches rather than a fictitious role play, learners receive supportive, actionable feedback delivered in a safe environment. These observations are invaluable for leaders more used to fire fighting and operating on auto pilot, helping them to see how they can put their new skills into action straightaway.


Win-win. Participants get work done while they’re ‘out of the office’ and benefit from working and learning alongside other learners, coaches and facilitators. Participants keep on top of their work with the added benefit of fresh perspective and support from their coaches, facilitators and fellow learners. Meanwhile L&D is demonstrating the programme’s value and impact in real time, especially important against a backdrop of change and competing priorities pulling leaders in other directions.


Learning in the flow of work brings the whole team into the learning experience. From running real team meetings to inviting line managers to join participants to agree leadership actions they can implement together; this approach opens the door to engaging whole teams and line managers, amplifying the impact of the learning across the business.


Virtual learning closes the gap between learning and application. Early signs from our in-house research shows that half day workshops can provide learners with the right amount of context and content to enable them to practice and see the impact immediately.


Leaders are set up for continuous learning.  This approach also equips leaders with the skills and mindset to reflect  and recognise when they need to learn as well as giving them a network within the business to do so.


“I found the ‘doing to learn’ approach make it easier to absorb and apply learnings into real-life situations. I was able to quickly put into practice the new skills and behaviours I developed with the 1:1 support of a coach.”
Regional manager from a global logistics company

Create momentum and bag a few quick wins

Ultimately the focus of any leadership development is about performance: that of the leader and the other people in their network, including team members, peers and high-level managers.  

For L&D managers, that means designing learning programmes that give participants the chance to practice their new skills on real-life business situations and witness the impact straightaway. And crucially these quick wins give leaders momentum to continue on their leadership journey.  


Further reading 

What is learning in the flow of work? Definition, best practices & examples 

Under the microscope: an insider’s perspective from one of our leadership programmes 

Driving ambitious organisational transformation at a leading global logistics company 

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