Scenario: Phone rings

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

During the session a team members phone rings and they leave the table to answer it.

Tags: Action Learning Coach

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Comments (13)

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    John Thompson

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    When the person returns to the table ask the group. One of the group moved away to answer a phone call. How would the group like to handle phone calls? Let us establish a ground rule about phone calls whilst we are in session. Confirm the ground rule and then ask – who has the next question?

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    Simon Hardiman

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    I would ask :
    ‘What is the impact to the team of their colleague taking a call away from the table?’
    ‘How do the team wish to handle phone calls in future during these sessions?’
    ‘Who has the next question?’

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    mattfarmer

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    I might ask the group, “How does it make the group feel when someone takes a telephone call during group working time?”. My aim would be to establish whether this bothers people and if so,

    1. How the group whats to handle these situations in the future
    2. What the group have learned from this situation (although I might leave this for the end of session)

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    Fred N.

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    My response would depend on how often this occurred. If that was the first time, I might let it go or simply ask the team if they wanted to keep working or take a break. If leaving to take calls was more of a chronic behavior, I would ask the team how they felt about people leaving to take calls, what the impact was, and how they wanted to handle that situation in the future.

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    Cleo Wolff

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    Actually I have gone through that situation last week. Someone answered the phone and came back 3 minutos after. The Action Learn Coach ( it was a foundation workshop) told her very briefly what happened in the team and very quickly she was again working with committment. I didn’t see any damage to the team.
    I do believe it is important to share rules but as Fred says, only when this type of behaviour becomes more of a chronic behavior.

    I believe as AL coaches, we need to be conscious about how the energy of the team changes if that happens. Otherwise, I think this is part of time now.

    Cleo

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    DrBea

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    For this one I would use the “I observed … ” approach. I’ve observed <> has just left to take a call? What is the impact on the team of this? How do we want to handle it? How do we want to handle it when they return?

    As coaches it is not for us to decide if this is a minor or a serious infraction. It’s our job to bring awareness to it and let the team decide how to handle it. In this situation it’s particularly important to discuss how to handle it when the person returns. I’ve had teams decide to take a short break to catch the person up, I’ve had others decide that the person could sit quietly until they caught up. If they asked a question that was covered while they were gone they would be told so and the information would not be rehashed.
    Happy Coaching
    Bea

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    Ervin

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    I like Bea’s approach . I believe its also important address the situation right at the moment we also dont want this to become a repeating behavior

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    Carole

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    I also like Bea’s approach, especially using “observed”.

    However, we need to remember that many of our interventions might carry an implication that there is something for the team to “fix”. Neutral affirming language is so important to mitigate that effect.

    This also reminds me that there is another, similar situation–what to do when people join late. I had this happen last week in an AL session. When there was a natural break, I told the late joiner where we were in the process and asked if someone in the group could summarize the issue we were working on. I think that in the future, I will use a different approach–ask the group to pause, welcome the latecomer and ask the group how they would like to bring X into the discussion. That might be a more fitting intervention for a newly formed group because it sends the message that when members leave & join, the group needs to recognize this an shared event.

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    John S.

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    My first reaction would be to approach the situation as presented by Fred followed by the use of specific language as presented by Dr. Bea. I have let some non-recurring behaviors slide-by for the sake of keeping the team and topic on-point especially in the very early stages of team development but as the team matures I find myself challenging these types of behaviors more and more. I do hear you Dr. Bea regarding not judging the importance of the behavior and just challenge it so I’ll do my best to intervene earlier.
    John S.

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    Lere Baale

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    We normally agree on rules of meeting and workshop engagement. Our normal agreement is that all phones are set on on silent or vibration so that there is little distraction. if a phone rings in the midst of a workshop, participants will expect the owner to switch it off or set it back at silent mode. It is better to be proactive about this issue in our community. If it does occur, all thgat is required is to remind ourselves on the ground rules and see if there is a need to take a five minutes break to take calls.

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    Zak Zreikat

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    My initial response is that answering phone calls is not OK as it distracts the team member taking the call and distracts the rest of the team. Then I remember that it is not my place to judge what is right or wrong with the way the team functions. All of the responses above have merit and as each team is different, there may be different approaches to dealing with this. What I would do is take out the all powerful “mirror”. As Dr Bea suggests, I too would use the words “I have observed….” The only question that remains to me is timing. Would I do it when the team member is gone, or when they return, at the next intervention, at the last intervention or even when setting ground rules when a group first comes together? I am still new to action learning but from what I have learnt so far, my thought is that it depends on each group and where they are at when the incident occurs. With any luck, the group may self regulate.

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    Tsumin Huang

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    I would ask the team “how would you like to handle this situation now?”Let the team decide what they want to do next. Probably they would like to wait or have a short break or continue and give the person a brief when he/she comes back later. I would ask all team members “how would the team deal with this situation in the future?”to help the team having reflections and learning.

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    JIXIAOPENG

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    As AL coach, when the person returns to the table . I will ask the team member: what happened just now? then ask: how would the group like to handle phone calls? can we establish a ground rule about phone calls?

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