Scenario: Refusal to Participate

As an Action Learning Coach how would you handle the following situation:

A member of the team does not want to participate.

Tags: Action Learning Coach

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Comments (11)

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    Edwin Sim

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    I will get the group to reflect on the impact of such behavior and hope that the un-participative person will change his behavior. However, in the unfortunate event that the person doesn’t, I will wait for break-time and after the session is over and have a word with the person to assess the situation.

    My opinion is that if he/she is not a willing participant, it will be futile attempt to get him/her to contribute and worse, he or she might “infect” others with negativity. I would tak the courageous move to ask the person to be excused from the AL team.

    Edwin@5hue.com

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    John Roberts

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    I had an experience where one of the team members was not participating at all. It was fairly evident not only to me but the rest of the team that he was not engaged with the discussion. I continued to observe this to a.) see if anyone on the team would address it and to b.) see if he would give up any clues as to what he was dealing with (i.e. internal conflict, team member conflict, issues at home). After the first break, without calling the person out, I stated that I was observing that not everyone was contribution to the discussion. Then I asked “Is anyone else observing this and what the impact of this might be on their ability to generate high quality solutions? Interestingly, all of the members of the team directed their responses toward the individual. He got the hint, about his behavior and he began asking some very good questions having to do with what was troubling him. He offered a perspective that the rest of the team had not considered and some real learning took place within the team.

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    cramier

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    In that situation I would first ask individually to the participants :”how do you evaluate your level of participation ?” and then “I noticed that some of you have a low level of engagement in the discussion. How do the group want to improve that ?”.

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    Tracey Jones

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    I had a similar situation as John Roberts notes above, only I was the non-participant in the scenario. In that session the coach mentioned directly that I wasn’t participating. However, my lack of participation wasn’t intentional so the level of intervention was surprising to me. When the team was asked what they’d like to do about it, I was able to explained why I’d been quiet in the discussion and it hadn’t been due to a lack of engagement on my part. More that I felt I knew little on the subject. The discussion afterwards led to some real learnings and ultimately extra actions for the problem presenter. But I admit I felt unfairly singled out at that moment in the session. So my suggestion is to go easy in this circumstance, don’t immediately assume people aren’t participating deliberately.

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    Hermann Funk

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    This is a subject that should be discussed when the AL team is being formed (during the introduction to action learning workshop). If it should still occur during an actual session, I would share my observation with the group and encourage and accept a change in attitude by the member concerned. However, if the participation should still be lacking, I would have a conversation with that particular member (outside the session) and if necessary request him or her to leave.

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    Sumit Bhasin

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    I would probably ask the Team about

    1. What does the team want to do?
    2. What does the team think will be the consequences of letting the person go?

    If the participant who wants to leave is taking the entire process down and the team feels that his leaving will benefit, so be it. I will politely let the participant go without letting it cause a lot of damage to the quality of discussions.

    if the participant who wants to leave is a great person who is contributing well, then I guess the team will somehow pursuade him/her to stay. If they cannot, then also it probably will be in the best interest of the team to let them go as a dis-interested participant will most likely take the entire team down.

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    DrBea

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    As Action Learning Coaches. we want to raise the level of awareness without judgment. As Tracey mentioned pointing someone out can have a very negative impact.

    After asking the standard 3 questions, if the participation issue wasn’t mentioned I would ask – How is the level of participation? Presumably someone would mention it wasn’t even. I would then ask this person, What can you do to draw this person into the conversation? and finsish with – Why is it important that we hear from everyone?

    This passes responsibility back to the team to remedy the situation.

    Happy Coaching
    Bea

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    Louise

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    Picking up on what Tracey Jones says about “being too directive” the coach needs to do a number of things as part of the preparation session and also at the beginning of the session:
    – encouraging everyone to participate prior to the session and if there are any concerns that they need to feel comfortable that they raise these issues beforehand (eg: if one person has problems with understanding the context etc. then others are likely to as well which may require more prep work with the group)
    – restating the above at the beginning of the session as it is related to the ground rule of “anyone can ask a question of anyone else”
    – during the session I would ask “what is the pattern of our questions” and then ask “Are we gettting the best out of the group?”

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    Mary Volz-Peacock

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    In an overview, I cover AL background, process, benefits, expectations, roles, responsibilities and the 2 main AL ground rules. However, teams add other ground rules and often include participation as an important one. If someone is not choosing to participate, I would ask the team ‘how is the level of participation of members?’ ‘are we getting balanced participation and good questions?’ Depending on responses, I may ask ‘what can we do differently to get the best out of the team?’ ‘What is the impact?’ I have found that team members are usually sensitive to the level of participation and work hard to be inclusive of all members.

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    clsun

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    If the situation happens prior to the AL meeting, it can be a topic of discussion with the sponsor to decide whether or not to replace that person with someone else. If it happens during the period of the meeting, I will take intervention to ask what the impact is and its consequences when one does not participate. How can we overcome that? In the end of the AL meeting during the reflection session, I will ask the team what they learned from the situation.

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    Barry Rush

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    I would intervene with the questions. How are we doing with participation? Why is it important? How do we want to change? And see how that goes. Perhaps go to the ” What is the impact on the team … How do you want to handle this?” Then I would listen for the response of the person who does not want to participate … and the questions the group asks him/her.

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