HQ Asia Interview With Phil Geldart

11/08/2017
Phil Geldart is the CEO of Eagle’s flight, a HR training company specialising in realising the latent potential of participants through experiential learning. The company has a large diverse portfolio of fortune 500 clients across different industries including pharmaceuticals, finance, telecommunications, and manufacturing. HQ Asia interviews Geldart to find out more about his personal beliefs and insights, as well as how his company Eagle’s Flight differentiates itself.

What are two to three learnings that you can share with the readers that you’ve learnt over your leadership journey?

Firstly, to forward your own leadership abilities, you must seek out mentorship. The ideal mentor is not only just good at their job, but allows you to learn from their experience – mistakes and successes alike.  At the beginning of my career, I was about to transition into a new job, when a new boss was appointed. In the span of two weeks before the job switch, the quality of leadership that was displayed was so impressive that I felt strongly enough to change my plans.  This resulted in my decision to stay in the current role, to get the opportunity to learn from this new leader, whose lessons formed the foundation of my leadership style and tactics today. 

Secondly, one should be humble in their actions, especially in their interactions with people. Without humility, it can be hard to learn from the situation you are facing, or from others. No matter how brilliant you may be, people rarely enjoy or respect those who appear as if they know it all.

Lastly, leaders must support their staff. Of course, financially, but also by participating in brainstorming sessions and encouraging innovative ideas, or taking the time to coach an employee through a difficult situation. This will lead the team and its individual contributors to success. Care and responsibility for people and business results do not have to be mutually exclusive – it is optimal for all stakeholders if the two are done well and in tandem.

What are the core skills and attributes that a leader will need now and in the future?

They must have phenomenal communication skills. More specifically, an ability to present, an ability to speak and the ability to listen. Good leaders need time management skills paired with  execution skills. This results in accountability for their actions, which is rated highly in the business world.

The willingness and ability to coach is critical. For leader’s to succeed now and into the future, they must recognize that there is potential in every employee, and that it can be released with the willingness of a leader to coach employees towards it. Even leaders need coaching and feedback – especially when they are trying to become better at it themselves. Be open to feedback from employees about what works and what doesn’t to ensure you are being optimally supportive of their potential.

How can companies maximize the effectiveness of their employees?

Successful organizations are able to differentiate between activity and productivity. There’s a perception that an increase in activity within the workplace is good, as more action supposedly equates to more work being done. However, if employees are unable to discern where to focus their efforts to support organizational goals, then any amount activity does not productivity. It wastes the workers’, leaders’, and the company’s time. For example, in the business climate in Asia, the number of hours worked is often a key indicator of how “valuable,” or “hardworking,” an employee is. Leaders and employees in successful companies have shifted their focus from activity, to productivity, which ensures their daily actions achieve the greatest organizational results possible.

How does Eagle’s Flight help companies to increase their ability to meet changing market needs?

In every company, the most important resource is the people. Nowadays, the best marketing teams can always be hired, and the newest manufacturing process can be replicated. However, the need to develop people to the needs of your specific organization and its industry, is completely unique. The essence of great training and long lasting performance improvement is the ability to change the employees behaviour in order to drive organizational results. .

Eagle’s Flight changes behaviour through experiential learning.  Experiential learning often employs problem-solving and game-like tactics, but it is much more than a game. The experience mimics a challenge or situation that the participants commonly face at work, but is masterfully disguised for participants. It itself allows participants to become fully immersed in the middle of a murder mystery or mining for gold in Desert, all while learning and practicing new skills that can be applied back on the job. In many cases, trainees are not even aware that they are learning something new, because they are having so much fun trying to solve the presented challenge. Meanwhile, they are safely testing effective new behaviours that contribute to better communication, closer teamwork, and other factors that contribute to improved performance and changed behaviour. 

Experiential learning can often be written off as another “training game,” but another element that makes it much more is the facilitated debrief. The debrief is a guided discussion that gives individuals the opportunity to connect their new knowledge to the challenges they face every day. Though the quality of the debrief is dependent on the quality of the experience and the conviction trainees have. Therefore, it is the role of the skilled facilitator to spark deeper thinking about the behaviours that led to success or failure and how they can be transferred to similar situations in the workplace. To do this, they need to be intimately familiar with the business and the dynamics of those in the training session. Without linking the training concepts to the job, it is not possible to maximize the results experiential learning can have.

How do various generations react to experiential learning? Say, Gen Y versus Millennials.

Surprisingly, experiential learning isn’t impacted by generational differences, cultures, geography, or experience levels. An experiential learning activity does not present a technology-based challenges, and is not a “boring” lecture, but instead visceral, and engaging, to keep trainees attention. Interestingly, the millennial generation is a huge fan of this technique, as it is the best way to engage them, has a proven effect on their development and for that, they love it! It is an incredibly powerful training technique way to instil behaviour change. Eagle’s Flight offers the same experiences across the globe, and has the ability to customize based on culture, organization, location or language.

How do you design and develop the Eagle’s Flight experiential learning activities?

We start by defining the goal of the experience and then work backwards, by creating the key componentises and principles participants must master to achieve the goal. For example, if productivity is the goal, I think about what scenarios can be created to exemplify this idea. In this case Eagle’s Flight came up with Jungle Fire™,  an experience that is situated in the rainforest. It aims to teach the critical concepts of planning, strategy, and tactics, in order to drive productivity. Participants learn that with a focus on the right objective, a well thought-out plan, astute risk mangement and smart allocation of resources and skills, teams will achieve the goal.

Moreover, by design, experiential learning allows the merging of fantasy and reality, which makes for a more memorable experience. The theme is critical to the success of every experience as it creates the storyline, and backs the metaphor that unfolds during the experience; all of which supports the embedded learnings. Not only do participants learning something they can take back on the job, but they have a fun and memorable time too! 

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