Scenario: Side Conversation

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

As you are opening the session and reinforcing the ground rules, two participants start chatting (they’ve been in many session and already know the rules).

Tags: Action Learning Coach

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Comments (15)

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    Julia Storberg-Walker

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    To me, this is a bit complex, because I want to start on a positive note. When I’ve had something like this happen before, I just stop talking to wait for the talkers to stop. It may take a while but I let the pause linger as long as it needs to. In this case, I may acknowledge the ‘long timers’ and how they know the rules, but also acknowledge that the new comers need this info. I may use this situation as a learning opportunity for the group and talk about how important modeling is for group success. Depending on my past history with the talkers–if I knew them very well, I may lightly ask them to describe the learning and performance impact on a group when group members are not 100% engaged. Depending on where I was in the ground rules, and after the silence (described above), I may lightly ask the group why I stopped talking, and facilitate a learning discussion. To me, I would not want to over-react to the talkers because sometimes it is relatively easy to forget the ‘rules,’ especially at the beginning. But, I would not let the situation continue unaddressed.

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      Cleo Wolff

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      As we work with our brains intensively in a Action Learning session, I would finish my explanation about the rules and immediately ask: ” what is the impact in the team when everyone since the beginning are mind opened to learn from each other listening actively? I think that it is a way to leave a message how importante is to listen to the others anytime during the session. But I wonder if I am inducing or putting very clear the importance of listening anytime. But I think that would be my first reaction.

      Cleo

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    Patricia C. Gonzalez

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    In this scenario I would leverage the knowledge they have learned by having alredy been in many sessions. I would pause from my session opening script to transition to an intervention. ” I am noticing a side converstaion, how are we doing with keeping one conversation at the tabel? ” I would follow with: “What has been the benefit so far by having the entire group engaged in one conversation?” And my third question would be: “How do we want to make sure that happens?”
    With agreement form the group I would continue with my opening of the session.

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    Adetola Akintomide

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    Having a part of the team involved in a side conversation as I start stating the rules at a start of a session could be very distracting to other members of the team.
    To handle the situation, it is necessary to draw their attention back to the group discussion. In doing this it is very important not to sound commanding as this might be misintepreted and the whole essence of the session might be defeated. It is also important to bring one of the tenets of AL to play here which states that participants should be allowed to recognise the issue and proffer solutions.
    I will therefore stop talking, face the members of the small team involved in the side conversation and say ” You seem to have some information you might want to share with the group?” This comment from me will remind them that what they were discussing was not meant for the class,and the response will be “No”.
    Since I have the opportunity of an additional ground rule to the regular ones, I will immediately state ‘no side conversation’ as one of the ground rules for the session.
    At the end of the session, I will ask the group to say what such an act (side conversation) could cause the group. I will explain that this could result in a distraction to the team such that the main aim of the meeting/session could be jeopadised. I will further reiterate the need to have all team members be attentive and active at sessions.

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    Silvia QR

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    I usually set some frames before starting any session (about listening, respect, use of time, etc.). In this case, I would acknowledge the participants who have done it before, and embed those frames as part of their experience (“they have done many sessions before and that has made them enhance their listening, respect for others and effectiveness of time management skills”)… If when I start reinforcing the ground rules, they still have a side conversation, I would proceed 1) similarly to Julia, pausing and then asking the group about the purpose of pausing and facilitating the learning discussion, or 2) if group is a little larger and time is a constraint, I would intervene kindly asking the group “is everyone fully present?” or “is everyone hearing clearly to what I am saying”? then facilitate the learning opportunity if anyone says “no”. It may just happen that the “chatters” were clarifying something and they can easily come back to the team work.

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    ffulton

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    Get to the meeting early to set the tone. Pause for the conversation to end or continue and interrupt their conversation asking one person the first ground rule (encouraging their transition to the rules) and then asking the second person to explain the importance of questions.

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    Vivian Chang

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    Since the ground rules were important to the Action Learning Workshop, all
    team members should understand and accept them. In spite that two
    participants started chatting, to ensure that all team members accept and
    follow them, I would ask the team “Do you have any question about the group
    rules?” and “Can you accept and follow them during our Action Learning
    Workshop?” If the two participants continued to chat, I would directly ask
    two of them if they had any questions about the ground rules.

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    clsun

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    After the opening, I will read out the ground rules for the team members and to make sure they understood and accepted the rules. If the two participants start to chat, I will directly ask them if they have any questions about the ground rules. If they chat again during the session, I will ask group members “Is everyone engaged? What we can do as a group to ensure everyone is engaged in our work?

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    Catherine Chiu

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    Group rules created first allow these to operate in this instance – e.g. respect for others, full involvement in the group. As you start with the 2 Ground Rules ‘Statements only in response to questions” you can ask the group ‘What question has been asked here?’ and wait for a response or the chatter to stop. You can then proceed with the second Ground Rule and subsequently enquire ‘what is the learning opportunity we have just had?’
    This will engage in immediate experience of the Ground Rules.
    I agree that pointing out role modelling appropriate behaviour for new people in the group is an important aspect of this learning.

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    Tman

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    In this situation I would pause and see if the side conversation stops as a result of the pause. If the side conversation stopped as a result of the pause I would complete the ground rules and then ask the question what can we do as group to ensure that everyone is engaged in our work?

    If the side talk continues after the pause I would intervene immediately and say I’m observing a side conversation and would like the know what the impact of this is on the group?

    It is important to set a tone of understanding in the beginning so the group has a high level of engagement throughout the session.

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    GurpreetSchhabra

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    Here as in Action Learning Coach I would take an opportunity and use the second Ground Rule , Me as in Coach can intervene any time and instruct the group that Please one at a time and respect each other by listening to them…

    And second option could be a question to the group – How are we doing as in group ? and then will ask the group What best we can do as in group?

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    Philip Hsi

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    I will pause for a while to let them know that the meeting is holding for them to come back. If they continue to chat. I will ask: “Is our team ready to move on?” This question may draw them back to the team. If not, I will then do the same thing as Tman did. (8/15/2013). If they continue to chat. I will then ask these talkers: “As the team is almost ready to move on, every input is welcomed. Could you share what you two are talking to the team?” I use this question to re-emphasis the importance of participation, but also give them an option to share or not to share their talking to the team, and also they will know there will be asked to share if they continue side talk.

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    Chien Wen-Che wayne

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    1.I will stop for a while, then the two chatting persons bet to notice the silent atmosphere of the team and come back.
    2.I might remind the chatting persons the team is going the opening session. Are they ready to participate? Or how much time they need to get ready?(Normally, they’ll respond sorry and back to team ASAP)
    3.When they’re back to the team, I’ll ask team: What will you suggest to do if you do have urgent important message to share with team member duing the session?

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    Jeraldine Choo

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    I would ask the two participants who are chatting to explain the two ground rules, one is to ensure they do understand the ground rules and two, to prevent them from disrupting others. I would also ask the team “On a scale of 1 – 10, how does it feels when someone is talking in a meeting and people are not listening attentively? 1 being bad and 10 being good.” Most likely the participants will give lower ratings. Then I will ask “how does this impact on the team performance and morale?” “What can the team do better?” Hopefully, this will be a good learning opportunity for all and the two chatters could get the hint.

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    DrBea

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    This is one of those very rare situations. As a coach I must remember I can only ask questions.

    Myself – I would use the questions that would ask them to explain the ground rules.

    Happy Coaching
    Bea

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