Leadership Development: Banff Centre Leadership Development, Alberta, Canada

Since 2004 I have had an evolving partnership with Banff Centre Leadership Development in Alberta, Canada. In the past 50 years the Banff Centre has served over a quarter of a million business, government, non-profit and Aboriginal leaders. The Centre is renowned as one of the world's most innovative leadership venues (and also one of the most beautiful).

In 2005 I began my work with the Leadership Learning Lab, the innovation wing of Banff Centre Leadership Development. The Lab's collaborative work is to research and generate practical methods for developing leaders of all sectors of society by exploring interconnections between leadership, arts, ecology and culture.

Now more than ever, traditional approaches to leadership challenges are quickly losing their effectiveness. Leaders today find themselves operating in increasingly complex and chaotic environments. The Leadership Lab is designed in part to assist leaders in making sense of our constantly evolving world by creating an open space for collaborative inquiry - a space to assist us in awakening to new possibilities by bringing together a diversity of people, perspectives, and learning processes.

From the Leadership Learning Lab Overview

Phase I: exploring the intersection
In July 2005 I was invited to co-facilitate a workshop with international leadership development facilitators, movement educators and leadership coaches to showcase our work and explore how movement and physical awareness training can best advance leader and leadership development. We came together to exchange practices and to support the lab's cutting edge applied research, program evolution and new product development.

Why the Banff Centre is investing in this creative inquiry
In recent years the Centre has been encouraged by the emergence of a number of artistic methods as pedagogical tools for developing leadership capacities. The success of these experiences prompted them to explore more deeply how movement-based creative processes can be used to develop critical qualities of leadership.

After Phase I, the Lab recognized movement-based facilitation as a powerful and transformative learning approach for leaders and they committed to taking this work to the next level.

Phase II: deeper exploration and documentation
In August 2007 I became a member of the Leadership Arts Ensemble, a group of Leadership Development staff, faculty, creativity facilitators, and artists. This ensemble collaboratively explores, tests, and defines connections between leadership, artistic mediums and creative processes. The Lab sponsored a second workshop.

I documented this second level of inquiry and produced a report with Colin Funk, Creative Programming Director, summarizing the benefits and opportunities for movement-based facilitation, Advancing the Practice of Leadership Through Movement.

The Centre integrated more awareness-based physical movement into core programs.

Phase III: program design
In November 2007 I contributed to a think tank to jump-start the redesign of a core program, Leading for Results.

Phase IV: program implementation and launch
In Spring 2008 alongside Nick Nissley, Executive Director for Leadership Development at the Banff Centre, I facilitated a day-long learning program for the Minnesota Organizational Development Network at my home base, The Creative Leadership Studio in Minneapolis. Nick provided a theoretical framework for a day of experiential learning.

In August 2008, back at the Banff Centre I co-designed and co-facilitated the 3-day launch of a new series of arts-infused programs called Leadership That Moves Us: Powerful Expression for Leaders.

Learnings about leadership development

In Phase I and Phase II we identified 14 benefits of movement-based facilitation for leadership development, for example:

A present time laboratory
In movement-based facilitation, we reflect on experience as it is unfolding, rather than reflecting on experience in the distant past. This focus on in-the-moment experience cultivates a highly engaging, real and present-time laboratory. Participants can transfer this increased awareness of their choices and behavioral preferences to choices and behavior in leadership contexts back home.

Cultivating comfort with ambiguity and paradox
Throughout our Lab workshops we heard frequent comments about how this work fosters increased awareness of and comfort with ambiguity and paradox.

Learning to perceive whole systems and recognize relevant patterns even in the midst of change. Pattern recognition is fundamental to generating skillful options for action in changing conditions. Through movement-based experiences participants learn to see patterns by expanding their ability to flexibly shift their perception between the part, the whole and the greater whole.

Enhanced communication skills and increased capacity to listen to a broader bandwidth of information
Movement-based facilitation is a process for teaching people to attend to the 80-90% of communication that is non-verbal. It helps us separate the content of communication from the structure of communication. A by-product of attending to the structure of communication is that people learn how to listen without identifying so tightly with their own fixed ideas about a situation. This is especially helpful in high conflict situations. In the words of a lab workshop participant, "I'm listening differently. I'm listening for where the conversation needs to go rather than where I think it should go."

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