Transforming from employee to supervisor…supervisor to manager…and manager to leader is full of both “Aha” and “Oh no” moments.
A variety of learning theories attempt to help us better understand this process. Especially relevant for women striving to get ahead is Dr. Jack Mezirow’s Transformational Learning Theory. Mezirow suggests that when an individual experiences a dilemma (in our case, let’s say a woman poised for a career transition requiring new skills and new behaviors) the person needs to “make meaning” in order to learn, develop and transform.
During this “make meaning” process, it is critical that three key elements be in place: a safe environment, input from more experienced individuals and an openness/willingness to learn. Mezirow posits that the formation of this type of learning “community” will ease the transition and facilitate the required transformation.
About a month or so ago, I revisited Mezirow’s Transformational Learning Theory as part of my doctoral program at the University of Pennsylvania/Wharton School and I had my own “aha moment.” I realized that the success of our corporate partners and the women they send to our Women Unlimited programs is strongly connected to the “make meaning” and “community” aspects of Mezirow’s theory.
Let me give you a few examples:
- WOMEN Unlimited programs provide a safe environment for high potential women to open up about challenges they face as they transition to their next career stage. In this non-threatening milieu, outside their organization, they feel comfortable to discuss their development dilemma (the resistance they are experiencing when their former behaviors no longer work.) As a result, they learn how to focus on and master the subtle shifts they must make to further their careers.
- The components of our programs put women in touch with experts—both male and female—who know what it takes to get ahead and to manage the difficulties that invariably come with career transitions…because they’ve done it. Additionally, our attendees get to interact with peers from other organizations who can broaden their outlook on achieving the next levels of success.
- Throughout our programs, attendees are provided with mentors who help them navigate the changes required to advance their careers and to increase contributions to their organizations. It is common for these relationships to become career-long alliances.
- Our participants learn to nurture relationships with upper management throughout their own organizations. As a result, they become adept at tapping the expertise of those fully-versed in the organizational climate in which upward-striving women must operate.
To summarize: our WOMEN Unlimited programs are designed for high potential women, whose development to senior level positions is encouraged by their organizations. Through our process, which is in synch with Mezirow’s proven approach, participating women broaden their horizons by interacting with experts and peers… have the benefit of mentors who help them make required attitudinal shifts…and learn to nurture internal relationships at the upper levels of their organizations. As a result, they identify appropriate advancement strategies and embrace necessary attitudinal shifts, a process they would have been unable to accomplish on their own.
Check out our website for more details on how each of our programs creates opportunities for talented women to transform from one corporate level to the next. And how their increased facility with internal and external relationships brings huge benefits to their corporations.
President & CEO
WOMEN Unlimited, Inc.