Creating leaders at all levels: Taizen’s experiential learning in action at the workplace.

Author: Dr. Julia Corkindale, Head of Learning and Development at Taizen.

While the early part of the 20th Century largely equated leadership with management,
the last three decades have seen a plethora of research into leadership development with
the tacit recognition that conscious and effective leadership is a necessity in an increasingly
uncertain world.

Whether the financial crash of 2008, the uncertainties of Brexit, the impact of climate
change or Covid-19, capable leaders must engage with disruption with courage and agility.
The trends in the field of leadership development increasingly recognise that these
capabilities must be cultivated at all levels of an organisation. All constituents should have
the wherewithal to lead when required.

There is increasing recognition that studying leadership theory in a classroom or artificial
training environment and then seeking to apply it in the real world is less effective than
drawing on the individual’s experience through opportunities for reflection and concept


The resulting competence reapplied to new experience leads to clearer
understanding and ownership of learning and development. Leaders need to use practice to
develop and test theory – not the other way round.
1 This link between doing and thinking is
based on the four-stage experiential learning model devised by Kolb (below).

Challenging and genuine work-based situations
provide the best opportunities for leadership
development, providing that individuals are
supported with appropriate short, bespoke,
‘chunked’ training interventions - and given the
opportunity to reflect on and conceptualise
understanding with the support of a coach.



There is also evidence that the combination of coaching and training can make a significant difference to job performance and satisfaction.4 In fact, research undertaken into conventional managerial training showed an increase in productivity of 22.4%.5 Coupled with eight weeks of one to one coaching, focussed on “goal-setting, collaborative problem-solving, practice, feedback, supervisory involvement, evaluation of end results, and a public presentation” this figure increased to 88%. 

Experiential learning, supported by a coach, can be transformational in terms of productivity
and job satisfaction. Not surprisingly, the two go hand in hand.


Implementing experiential learning

With the Taizen model, learners are engaged in active exploration of experience rather than
being passive receivers of information.


One-to-one coaching is used as a standalone or in partnership with bitesize workshops, to encourage learners to reflect on their experiences using a growth mindset, so that they can apply their own understanding of key capabilities of leadership. Learners ‘own’ their leadership development journey; the coach’s role is in facilitation of that process, but they never presume to inhabit the learner’s internal representation of their learning.

A crucial feature of the Taizen methodology is the structure devised by trainer and coach to
enable experiential learning. Bite-sized training and coaching are tailored in close
consultation with stake holders to create the most valuable experience for the individual
and the organisation.

(1) Hernez-Broome, G and Hughes, L.H., “Leadership Development: Past, Present and Future.” Human Resource Planning. 27 (1). March 2004.

(2) Kolb, D.A.   ‘Experiential Learning – Experience as the Source of Learning and Development’, Prentice Hall, New Jersey. 1984.

(3) Ohlott, P.J. “Job assignments” In C.D. McCauley and E. Van Velsor (eds). The Center for Creative Leadership (2nd ed) San Francisco, Jossey-Bass (151-182). 2004.

(4) Bright, D and Crockett, A. ‘Training Combined with Coaching can make a significant difference in job performance and satisfaction’, Coaching: An International Journey of Theory, Research and Practice. Volume 5 (1). January 2012.

(5) Dweck, C. ‘Mindset: changing the way you think to fulfil your potential’. Robinson, London. 2017.


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