Deliberate Distraction

What do you do as a coach when a team member asks a question which is obviously in no way related to the problem presented?  I.e. the team is working on an organisational culture problem and the next question is “Does anyone in the group have a preference for where we have lunch?”

Tags: Action Learning Coach

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Comments (11)

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    Keith Sng

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    I will observe how the team members respond to that question. If no one checks in to redirect or refocus, I may have to step in to ask “Team, what is happening here?”, “what does this tell us about staying focus on an issue?”, “what have we learnt here which may be relevant back at our workplace?”, “who has the next question?”. On the other hand, if the team catches the distraction and moves on, I may bring this up at the team debrief session.

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    Grace

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    Whilst the question could be no way related to the problem presented, I would say something like, “Joe, I’m not seeing how your point about lunch preference is related to the topic of our organisational culture. Help us to understand, how are they related?”

    When Joe responds, you and other team members might learn about a connection between the two topics that you hadn’t considered. For example, Joe might say that choice for lunch place could indirectly alienate colleauges from minority cultures – choosing places without vegetarian option would mean that they are indirectly excluded.
    If there is a connection, the team can decide whether it makes more sense to explore Joe’s idea now or later.
    If it turns out that Joe’s comment isn’t related but is still relevant for the team, you can suggest placing it on a future agenda (parking lot).

    Later, as AL coach, i would call for an intervention with the standard questions, and see if the team raises this as a learning point.

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    Jill Bayly

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    Love this comment by Grace, thanks for sharing this Grace

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    camkenzie

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    I would ask “how are we going as a group staying focused on the problem”?
    ” Why is it important that we stay focused”?
    “So how can we stay focused throughout the session”?
    Now who has the next question?

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    Paula Salomao

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    I would first see the reaction of the team. In case, they by themselves respond this was not an appropriate question and get back to the discussion and given it is the first time the participant tries to distract the team, I might let the work continue. In my next intervention or debrief, I would bring the question: “What is the level of focus of our question to the problem we are discussing?”, “What is the importance of keeping this alignment, of keeping our attention on the problem?”.
    If this participant has tried before to take team’s attention to other topics then our problem, I would intervene after the question. Instead of asking to the team about the focus of our questions, I would probably ask directly to the participant about the alignment between the question and our problem.

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    Fátima

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    I would observe the team’s reaction. If the team answers this question, I would intervene with the Standard Intervention: in a scale from 1 to 10, what is the team going ? What are we doing well? What can we do better? What is the impact in the team when we keep asking questions on the other’s reply? Who has the next question?

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    Cleo Wolff

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    Iwould wait if somenone from the team would ask question like: Waht is the relation between our last reply and your question? If the team go into this point, I would intervene with the Standard Intervention to test where the team is: In a scale from 1 to 10 how is the team going? What are we doing well? What we can do better? In a scale from 1 to 10, how is the quality of our questions towards keeping the focus on the problem? Who has the next question?

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    V.Vasudevan

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    If this was the first time that the participant was asking a seemingly unrelated question I would not intervene and leave it to the other team members to pick it up. If however, the participant asks another such unrelated question, as the AL Coach I would intervene and ask the team – “Team, what do you feel about the relevance of the questions being asked? Are the questions helping to keep the team focussed on the problem?”
    I would then wait for their response and then get them to continue by asking “Who has the next question?”

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    DrBea

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    Thanks for sharing additional resources! That is extremely exciting since we know within Action Learning we should encourage our teams to use all tools at their disposal!

    In terms of this scenario. I would likely not jump right away but take note of it.

    During the next checkin I would start with the standard 3 questions – How are we doing as a team on a scale of 1 to 10? What are wee doing well? and what can we do better?

    If no one brought this up I would use the following sequence:
    How focused are our questions in relation to the challenge?
    Why is it important that we focus our questions on today’s challenge?
    How can we insure we keep our questions related to today’s challenge?

    This sequence makes no judgment while simultaneously planting the seeds for the need to stay focused.

    Happy Coaching
    Bea

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    Francine van der Jagt

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    If the team does not react, I would ask what the relation is to the problem presented. There might be a connection or it might be relevant in another way.

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