Problem Presenter Refused To Answer Questions

The members were enthusiastic to help the problem presenter  and asked many good questions. However, the problem presenter commented it’s confidential info. and would not answer some of the questions. Members felt they were not able to help the problem presenter much if their questions were not answered and they could not see the value of action learning in this instance. But the problem presenter felt the session was useful to him in addressing his problem.  In this case, what should the coach do to help the team to move on…?

Tags: Action Learning Coach

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Comments (6)

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    gail finger

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    My first thought is to remind the team of (or better yet, as the team to reiterate) the basic ground rule, which includes that you do not have to answer the question that has been asked.

    Also, if the problem presenter wasn’t specific in stating how he was helped, I would ask him to say more so the team can understand that even when confidential information can’t be revealed, a problem presenter can be helped!

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    Philipp Werenfels

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    The Action Learning process is primarily to solve the problem. Thus, at the end of the session I will ask the Problem Presenter:

    1) Were you helped?
    2) How were you helped?
    3) What are your action steps you will take?

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    朱培玲

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    我想我會先問以下三個問題。
    作為一個團隊我們表現的如何?做的好的有哪些?接下來,哪些可以做得更好?

    瞭解了團隊的狀況後,我的介入方式可能會問陳述者,“你是否得到幫助?”“如何得到幫助”,“接下來的時間裡,你的目標是什麼”?“然後再問團隊,”作為一個團隊,我們的目標是什麼?” “大家可以如何前進?”

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    DrBea

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    During the process when the questions were not being answered I would ask the 3 standard questions – How are we doing? What are we doing well? What could we do better? I would expect someone would bring up the challenge of questions being answered with “it’s confidential”. Next I would ask – “What’s the impact on the team when the response to a question is “It’s confidential”?

    If the response was – it’s ok. I’d let it go. If not – “What norm might we adopt that would allow for the sharing of confidential information?”

    If the person with the confidentail information insisted it could not be shared. I would ask them – “How can the team be of most help to you, while respecting your need to keep some information confidentail?”

    Ideally, this would set up the team to be comfortable with the same level of confidentiality.

    If we were at the end of the session before recognizing the challenge. I would ask the problem presenter – “Were you help? How were you helped?”

    Then to the team. “Today we’ve seen how we can help solve a problem when some informaation is unavailable. How can we use that learning when we are working on other problems?”

    Happy Coaching
    Bea

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    Nikki Bourke

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    In addition to Dr Bea’s advice above, if the 3 standard questions are asked and the group functioning is not improved I would consider reminding the group that questions can be asked of anyone. Momentum might pick up and if the problem presenter is not happy with the path the problem definition is taking they might feel compelled to participate and offer some of that confidential information. Failing that, I love the suggestion of leaving it to the end to ask the problem presenter if they were helped and how…if their reponse is “no” then try to elicit from the presenter, then the group on why that might have been. That’s an important learning opportunity.

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    Carole

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    This is an interesting issue! I think we need to help the group be realistic and understand that there will be information that cannot be shared in an Action Learning group. For example, senior level managers/executives might have business information that can’t be shared due to Sarbanes-Oxley rules in the U.S. [applicable to publicly traded companies]. There might be human resources policies that preclude sharing some information and so forth.

    I love Bea’s question: “How can the team be of most help to you, while respecting your need to keep some information confidential?” I think this question really gets at the heart of the matter–that the group is there to help the issue holder, in the way that best meets that person’s needs.

    Hopefully, most groups recognize early on that the issue holder is always making decisions about how much to reveal about their own emotions, thoughts and actions.
    This also reminds me how important it is to have a conversation about what confidentiality really means and how to work with less than perfect information.

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