Scenario: Nerve Hit

As an action learning coach, how would you handle the following situation:

An extraordinarily deep question is asked. The responder sits quietly for a minute than begins to weep.

 

Tags: Action Learning Coach, WIAL Action Learning

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Comments (8)

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    krijn

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    Given the impact of the question on the responder it is important to give the responder (and the group) some time to reflect on the question (and I would give the responder a handkerchief). For a while there may only be silence. After that I would like to know if the responder is able to continue the session. My next intervention would be asking the group: “How do you think we are doing as a team right now” (I encourage them to respond in one or two words like “good”, “OK”, “not OK” “fair” etc.). Then I would ask: “What have we done well as team so far?”. And, after giving the team some time to process this question,: “What can we do better as a team?”. If no participants brings up the quality of the questions I would ask: “What is the quality of our questions so far?”. And, after that: “Are the questions that are being asked getting answered?” (yes or no). Because everyone in the group has observed the reaction of the responder on the question above, I would ask: “what is the impact of this reaction on the team”. After that I would ask: “How do we want to handle it”. After the group has made up its mind I would ask: “What would be the impact of doing that be on the team?” I would give the team the time to react on this question and then go back to the person who had the last question and ask if they could repeat their question.

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    Jim Carter

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    I would immediately intervene and request that the group take a brief time out for a few mintutes.

    I would ask to speak wiht the person on a 1-2-1 basis during this breif adjournement.

    In situations like this it is imprtant that we do not expose anyone to feeling shamed in the context of a group. Their tears may not be related to anything that has been said but the person needs to be given the ‘get out of jail’ clause here. Action Learning is exactly that, it isn’t some kind of therapy or counselling. If people are at all uncomfortable with AL then they need to know that it is a safe process and they can walk away if that is what they wish to do. Otherwise we may buld anxiety in particpants based upon individual’s bad experinces of the process.

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  • Avatar

    John.Tattersall

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    I agree with Jim, as Coach we have a ‘duty of care’ to all members of the group and other members may be emotionally affected by the physiological state of the responder.
    After a break of a few minutes I would check with the responder to ascertain whether he/she wanted to continue. If the answer is “yes” then I would recommence the session much along the same lines that Krijn suggests, if “no” then I would offer the choice to the responder of continuing to participate as an observer and if they were willing to capture examples for feedback on individual leadership skills/competencies.

    I would then recommence the session by asking the group how they wish to proceed with one member less.

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  • Avatar

    Stan

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    Who has the responsibility to care for this team member? It’s the group, not the AL coach. As the coach, I agree with the above responses that the AL coach would want to capture the moment with powerful questions depending on how the team supports the team member. This is a great opportunity for the team to bond and create more synergy for working together. These types of situations happen from time to time in the office and it’s important for the team to be the ones to show empathy and care to the individual and of course capture the learning and leadership development action points.

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  • Avatar

    lyeyk

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    My thoughts varied and depending on the group. I have seen many people weep quietly before win group setting. Sometime, people just need time to recompose, sometime the team support is more crucial than for AL coach to be the person offering the support.

    My intervention depends greatly on the emotional readiness of the team and that individual.

    If that individual is emotionally ready for such disclosure and would move towards necessary action, I would keep quiet and see how the team and individual response to the situation. If the team and/or individual are able to support each other emotionally, I would let the session continue. Some time later or may be as part of reflection I may ask:

    a) How well did the team support each other in a scale of 1-10?
    b) What the impact of the level of support to the team?
    c) How would this level of support be valuable in your own team / organisation?

    If the individual or team seem to be lost at handling the situation, I would intervene by checking with that person what does he.she want to do next? The same question will also be directed to the rest of the team members.

    If the individual / team choose to continue, I will intervene by asking that individual

    a) How would you like the team to support you?

    If the individual / team choose to take a break, I will check in with that person during the break and recommence the session as per agreed time.

    I will check in with everyone by asking:

    a) Would like to hear from everyone, how you are feeling now?
    b) What can we do to support each other?
    c) What should we do next?

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  • Avatar

    DrBea

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    I too would intervene immediately (well handing the person a tissue). I’d start with the standard 3 questions (How are we doing as a team? What are we doing well? What cane we do better?)

    The use of this is twofold – to give the person a moment to compose and to hopefully have the team self identify.

    In looking down the positive path – I would ask – Have we had any really powerful questions? If no one identified it – I would ask – how about the last question? What made it so powerful? What is the impact on the team of asking powerful questions? How do we want to continue?

    Because the trust level develops so quickly in Action Learning teams this is not an uncommon happening. Thus, I would ask an additional question. What should our norm around choosing to answer (or not) questions that impact us emotionally be?

    Happy Coaching
    Bea

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    Dennis Sanko

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    In general I agree with Stan – if there is a chance, we should use such opportunity for bonding and building trust.

    However, I would check if the responder is able/wants to continue (as Jim Carter had suggested), if answer is “yes”, I would ask: “what would help you to convert the emotion you are experiencing right now into a powerful insight?”
    “How could the team help you to regain the balance?”
    “What could you/we learn from this situation/emotion?”

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    Sridar

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    I would ask the team how are we doing as a team? I will ask on the scale of 1-10 how is the energy level of the team? I will then ask the team what is the depth and impact of the question? Assessing the situation, i will then ask how the team wish to proceed the session?

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