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  • Writer's pictureKate Crawshaw

In my super model world, I still value experience.

I am a model nerd.

I adore a four stages of competency quadrant and get excited when I see (yet another) opportunity to explain something via a lovely Venn diagram – the more circles the better.

I am a visual learner. Flash cards were my go-to for learning languages at school and models are still a great sense making tool for me as an adult.

However, while models make me intellectually capable and curious, they did not help me express these ideas, debate or build on them.

In my work life, I can read all I wanted about communication and negotiation, but this does not help me in reality when:

  • I get tongue tied under pressure and being unable to articulate my value

  • I freeze when aggressively challenged (my default “fight, flight, freeze” mode)

  • I don’t listen as I am too busy conjuring up my next impressive sentence to truly listen to what my client/colleague was saying

This is where my visual learning preference falls down.

While I can learn the basics, I need real life experience in order for me to truly be able to walk my talk (or even talk my thinking).

This is not a new concept and is evident in so many aspects of our day to day lives. In some arenas we are in no doubt of the importance of hands-on, practical, learning to master complex situations when we lack experience. For example, we don’t expect our 18 year old to be able to drive a car when they have only passed their road safety theory test.

Why is it so different at work?

However, when we get to work and expect managers, leaders and other ‘people people’ to manage complex conversations around challenging situations with little or no experience. This can lead to compromised relationships with both clients and team members with debilitating and costly consequences. This is especially prevalent with the rise in workplace mental health issues, bullying and discrimination incidents.

Experiential learning fills the gaps that other learning styles are unable to remedy. It works in conjunction with a range of learning styles to very effectively compliment and embed new skills.

Customer Experience Workshop in Financial Services

Recently, a team of 5 from Serious Woo worked with the participants of a leadership program of a well-known financial organisation. After spending a number of days reinforcing customer engagement strategies, we spent the morning with them to reinforce what they had learnt in one-to-one role play sessions with our corporate actors.

We focused on three pain points:

  • Ability to deal with different emotions with both empathy and professionalism

  • Skills in differentiating their value proposition and meeting the individual needs of the client

  • Supporting their value proposition through verbal and non-verbal cues.

This was worked on through a range of different scenarios, which led to participants to make choices on how to approach different situations and later reflect on what went well for them and what they needed to work on.

The participants had attended a number of owrkshops prior learning about influencing skills, understanding the need to be able to differentiate their value proposition and actively listening to the customer. They were then able to address any shortcomings they needed to focus on when interacting with their clients. These included:

  • Throwing out their agenda when a conversation was likely to be different (e.g. more emotional) than they had expected, and leaning into what the client wanted to talk about.

  • Making a discovery session as beneficial to the client as it is to them.

  • Balancing the need for emotional connection with the client and focusing on the client's business goals.

These conversations are complicated. What an advantage to make these A-HA moments in a safe, supportive environment instead of learning them on the job!

Let’s go back to the model. (Did I tell you I especially love this one?)

As it demonstrates, this type of learning provides us with:

  • the ability to experience challenging interactions in a safe environment

  • the opportunity to find meaning and personal relevance in the learning process through reflection and active participation.

  • the opportunity to observe unconscious behaviours and receive direct constructive feedback that can be automatically applied to your approach.

The outcomes of this blended learning experience can be achieved through an environment which is both flexible and controllable. While the learning is individualised and deeply personal, the collective outcomes increase the ability for the team to collaborate, have the skills to problem solve as well as give and receive feedback and build client intimacy.

I love this model and how we put it to use.


Serious Woo provides 3 highly experiential workshops that focus on critical issues in our organisations today.

Focus on your customer relationships and abilities. Provide the most true-to-life experience for your employees to refine their communication and influencing techniques on your most challenging stakeholders.

2. Critical Conversations Getting your teams talking.

Avoiding critical conversations within the workplace can be both detrimental to workplace safety and productivity. Mastery comes from experience.

A risk-managed approach to workplace mental health conversations.

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