Observations on new learning needs

Recently I have been trying to make my own conclusions about what themes are coming from my clients in these “interesting” times. They are just my subjective observations, maybe revealing my own search. Every client is unique because every individual is unique. However, are there not some patterns we can observe that reflect more general macro trends in society, especially when they are changing so rapidly and fundamentally?


In my leadership assessment work over the last few months with large clients in the healthcare and energy sectors, high potential managers are plodding along with their tasks without giving themselves the necessary time to step back and realise that they are juggling so much and their teams are too. They are ever thirstier to find the keys to develop their soft skills as they realise the “right brain stuff” is what makes them credible. There seem to be commonalities in development needs: The need to slow down, listen more, trust more, empathise more, persuade and influence, temper conflict and encourage diplomacy. I feel they also need to be appreciated for the resilience, engagement, and perseverance they are revealing in these unprecedented times.

In recent virtual leadership development training facilitation for a large hospitality company on topics such as resilience and managing in a matrix environment, all the components of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) are being amplified by the pandemic. This is making authentic leadership to support remote teams who have somewhat lost their way, more critical than ever. They say it can be lonely at the top. Well, there seems also to be an ever-greater desire to share concerns and best practice amongst managers. Thankfully, the breakout sessions on virtual conferencing platforms have become very conducive to this form of peer group learning, where I have been truly touched by the level of participants’ sharing of concerns and vulnerability.

In my coaching clients, career development aspirations seem to be searching for the sweet spot of finding meaning, security, and autonomy in one’s vocation.

In my Gestalt psychotherapy practice, in which I consider myself to have the privilege of being asked to enter into the most vulnerable spaces with others, fragile individuals are seeking ever more reassurance and comfort in whatever stability and meaning they can create for themselves. They are discovering both strengths and strains in the modified social contact with family, friends, and colleagues. They are finding more “flow” in their passions, hobbies, interests, and physical activity. They are struggling to avoid ruminating about regrets of the past or fears of the future, to better taste what the here and now has to offer. There seems to be an ever greater need to seek consolation and clarification in what can and cannot be controlled and influenced in their lives.

The words of the well-known saying seem to be more relevant today than ever – that we should all be granted the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can and wisdom to know the difference.

For other people development professionals out there, what changes have you noticed in your clients’ learning and development needs? There’s food for thought that just might be of benefit to us all :-)

Danny Freedman

Written by Danny Freedman
Senior Consultant @PeopleSmart

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