One size doesn’t fit all

Rock ClimbingLeaders come in all shapes and sizes, and all personality types.  And leadership development comes in all flavours as well.  I recently read an article about Wal-Mart using military-style tactics when training their leaders.   The article talked about a 16-week boot-camp-type experience designed to “overwhelm” and “frustrate” and it “breaks you down so it can build you back up again.”

When I think of these adventure-type training experiences, I wonder to myself, how many Introverts are there out there who, like me, detest these Extravert-type events?  Is it just me who doesn’t like to be forced to climb rocks, go whitewater rafting or fall into the arms of my teammates below?

I’m fond of saying that Myers-Briggs explains a lot of things, but it doesn’t explain everything.  Certainly my lack of athletic prowess adds to my disinterest in athletic adventures, but I have to say that my Introvertedness is a huge part of the equation.

When it comes to effective learning, it’s helpful to understand that Introverted brains and Extraverted brains require different levels of stimulation to work at their best.  Introverts’ brains only need a little bit to feel stimulated, while an Extraverts’ brains can handle considerably more.  This means that the same experience can be engaging to an Extravert and overwhelming to an Introvert. 

This can create a problem when it comes to learning.  Extraverted people will learn better and understand the material better when learning occurs in a highly stimulating environment.  For introverts, it’s the opposite.  Optimal learning for Introverts occurs in an environment that is quiet and free from intense stimulation.

So what happens in these action-adventure-oriented training sessions?  Well, the good news is that these types of experiences can create bonds between the people who are involved in them.  From a learning perspective, we may be doing some of the participants a disservice.

There is another consequence that also needs to be considered.  If this type of training event is indicative of the culture of the organization, the culture may be causing high-potential candidates to self-select out of the organization.  This could mean that not only are we losing quality candidates, but we may be contributing to a lack of diversity that would otherwise create a more healthy and robust organization.  Something to consider.

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