A Tired Team Lead

An Action Learning Team has met for several full-day sessions over several months working on a problem that is critical and highly visible in the organization. After the most recent full-day meeting, the Team Lead (the organization assigned a Team Lead) shared with the coach that she is feeling very fatigued. Although there was excellent processing and learning at the end of the meeting, the team stormed and got off track quite a bit in the afternoon segment. She likes the AL approach and sees the benefits, but for certain activities, such as brainstorming, wishes there could be someone in a facilitator role.

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Comments (10)

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    Carole Shaw

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    Leader fatigue is an intriguing issue.

    I would conduct a coaching call with the Team Lead to find out much more about what aspects of the team’s activities are draining her. There are so many possibilities–one of which is that this is a person who is conflict avoidant so the storming might have triggered deep emotional reactions. She might also be thinking that storming is ‘wrong’ or detrimental to the team so probing that might be helpful as well. Or her fatigue could be due to other work-related reasons reasons (smile….)

    You said she wants someone in a facilitator role during brainstorming–do you mean they did traditional brainstorming or are you referring to a phase of the AL process? You could reflect with her –how was this process managed? You might probe what she means by needing a facilitator–using a lot of open ended questions (sort of a mini-action learning process) to help her understand what’s causing her concern and fatigue, and what might help.

    If the team leader is just feeling that managing or controlling the group is her responsibility, then how could you help the group members take on more leadership? Is it something in the leader’s beliefs & behavior that is holding them back? Or is it something else?

    A coaching conversation with the team leader will probably yield a lot more information for you to work with in the next AL session.

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    Valerie Lingeman

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    Hi Gail. Is there a way that you could help the team lead find a way to communicate her fatigue to the group, possibly during one of the reflections at the close of a meeting?

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    Fred N.

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    I would ask a few questions to clarify my understanding of the issue for the team lead: Can you tell me a little more about what you’re feeling/thinking during these times that leave you drained? What is it about brainstorming and other activities that are so taxing for you? What is your reaction telling you about yourself?

    The conversation could go a few ways from here. To reframe the experience, I might ask if there are opportunities for personal growth in this place of discomfort for her. If she still feels like it’s too much for her, then I’d ask “How can you get some support for this task?”

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    Maeghan Jones

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    Hello, Gail. I agree with what others have said about the leader fatigue. I actually experienced a similar issue regarding brainstorming in a recent session. Members of the team expressed the need for a facilitator for that part of the session and were clearly looking at me to play that role. Through a series of questions, including “what group needs would the facilitator meet?”, the group realized that what they really wanted was someone to write the ideas on a whiteboard and help them group the ideas into similar categories so that they could evaluate them. After they identified the need, I asked what resources were available to them to meet that need. At that point someone in the group volunteered to serve the functions identified. I was pleased that they were able to rely on themselves and the group resources to address this need. In the reflection period several people commented on how it was important for them to realize that they had the capacity to solve many of their problems internally and would be better equipped to identify and address their needs moving forward.

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    Karen Dowling

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    Hi Gail. The others have left very useful advice. I am wondering why there needs to be full day sessions, particulary at a late stage in the group process. I notice that the group got off track in the afternoon session. Perhaps any future sessions should be limited to mornings only when people are likely to feel fresher. This will not solve any underlying issues, but it may help to create an environment where the group is better able to resolve their problems.

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    Cleo Wolff

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    Working with AL meetings means first of all to be opened to renew or rebuild paradigms. It is so difficult for us to be the protagonist in a change process. I do understand the flow that the answers before mine have gone, but I would like to put other thoughts for reflexion. As a coach we must be aware about how the team is going on. I wonder if so many full day sessions will tend to a fatigue, really! If the team doesn’t see the problem is going deep to the cause root it is natural to have a feeling of walking in the same path for ever. All the answers will help to find the way again, but there is also our responsability to be aware about how effective we are as coaches, taking care of learning processes. And that can be a one to learn everyone together.
    Cleo

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    John S.

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    I agree with many of the comments but mostly with Fred #3. I say that because I see the Team Lead providing a solution to a perceived problem rather than discussing the problem itself. Without knowing what is truely causing the pain we may be coaching the person incorrectly.
    John S.

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    Emma O.

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    I like Maeghan’s reply very much about empowering the team to solve the problem.

    One of the best learnings I took from my recent Foundations and CALC 1 class was that Action Learning is only one tool in the tool box. I was in class for 4 days straight and found myself completely exhausted at the end of every day. The brain needs some stimulation in order to keep functioning. And in the absence of caffeine or sugar (which are my favorite brain pick-me-ups…smile!), changing up how you do things gives the brain a fresh perspective.

    I’d build on Maeghan’s reply by suggesting that when you introduce Action Learning you find a way to slip in that it’s a very strong tool in the tool box…and can be used in conjunction with all tools at your disposal to make a breakthrough impact. Then, in session, after you ask your way to the root problem, you may ask, “What other tools do we have at our disposal to help us at this point?”

    (Example: I’m certified in InsideOut Coaching. I love some of the questions from that process and can see introducing them as good questions to ask during the “action to solution” phase of Action Learning.)

    Good luck!

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    Lere Baale

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    If she has expressed it, i would prefer the team solve the problem by asking the team to nominating someone to help facilitate the process of AL to solve the critical problem under discussion. in that way the Team Lead can take a rest and others can have opportunity to learn about team leadership.

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    Jane Lewis

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    For this question my thoughts go to what is/isn’t my role here after the session. What’s my relationship with the Team Lead? What do her words, and more importantly her manner, tell me? I assume that by now everyone is aware they steer their own ship and my role is highlighting “learning opportunities” and helping with the “What?,” “So what?” and “Now what?”
    So … in this scenario Team Lead has come to me after a “challenging” session and simply said she is feeling “very fatigued.” The further information in this question seems to highlight what the coach is thinking after the simple words “fatigued.” Are these important? Who knows? All I got was the “What”. At this point in our relationship I might say nothing, or make a sound to say “I’m listening” and give her my full attention until she processes what to say/do next. By now she knows my role. I’m first of all a listener.

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