You want to develop your home-based business but feel isolated and unsure? One of the downsides of working for yourself is the loss of social interaction that frequently accompanies working for someone else.

Sometimes the issues involved in building your own business seem overwhelming – computer viruses, accounting, marketing strategies, web development, search engine optimization, privacy legislation, tax returns, anti-spam legislation, skeptical relatives and so the list goes on.

Action learning is one way to overcome this sense of isolation and uncertainty, build confidence, and continuously improve your Internet business.

Action learning involves learning through action while collaborating with others on personal and business development. It is based on the principles of collaboration, mutual respect, and honesty.

Learning to collaborate

Once we build our own business, we typically develop the competitive mindset that we need to survive. We research the competition, determine where our competitive advantage lies, decide what products and services we will offer at what prices and determine how to position ourselves within the competitive marketplace. It is very easy to isolate ourselves and withdraw from our normal circle of supportive relationships. However, it is possible to develop and maintain new relationships while building your business.

For example, I have three professional women friends who have been meeting monthly for a number of years over coffee by the river. They meet to explore with each other ways to develop themselves and grow their respective businesses.

At each meeting, they focus on a major issue for one person while the other two act as critical friends. Sometimes, they may take turns within one meeting to offer personal or business issues for discussion. The number of issues covered in a meeting will depend on the available time and the depth of the issues involved. Issues may be personal, relationship, family, or business. They recognize that life balance is critical to business success and to their capacity to offer value to their clients/customers.

Supportive challenge through mutual respect

The action learning approach combines support with challenge. The aim is to support each other emotionally while being prepared to challenge each other intellectually.

The challenge comes from asking fresh questions that are designed to unearth fundamental assumptions or beliefs about the nature of the problem being addressed. Often our own false beliefs about ourselves, our business, or our competition holds us back from realizing personal and business growth.

In our everyday life, we often experience the separation of support and challenge. Support without challenge can reinforce the status quo and perspectives that are unhelpful or damaging. Challenge without support can be self-serving (building oneself up while taking the other person down)and damaging to the self-esteem of the other person (by reinforcing feelings of inadequacy).

Supportive challenge has as its object, building the self-esteem of the other person while helping them to recognize the limitations of their existing mindset about a problem, person, or issue. It is about helping the other person to be the best they are capable of being.

Learning to be honest

A fundamental value of action learning is the willingness to admit what you do not know or understand. This is often difficult in the social and business culture that we have today where knowledge and efficiency are so highly prized. However, honesty is the starting point for real learning.

Honesty requires trust and preparedness to be vulnerable. This is a lot easier if you are sharing with supportive friends. Openness builds if the group meets regularly and each person brings to the meeting the intention of working together to build personal and business effectiveness. Over time, honesty grows, relationships develop and effectiveness builds in all spheres of your lives.

Action learning as mutual coaching

Action learning can be a form of mutual coaching where people agree to take action on insights gained from the meetings. The value of the process is enhanced when each meeting includes a review of progress made since the previous meeting. Reflection on action and outcomes from those actions is fundamental to action learning.

If you engage in action learning you will be supported to go outside your comfort zone and try new things. You will be pleasantly surprised by what you are capable of achieving with the supportive challenge of reflective friends.

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