Scenario: Why

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

A participant asks another participant “why they asked a question”. The first participant is visibly disturbed. Your instinct is that they are reacting to the word “why” in that they feel the value of their question is being questioned.

 

Tags: Action Learning Coach, WIAL Action Learning

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Comments (7)

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    Kris

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    I will not intervene too early. I will not act on my instinct as I am mindful that these are my assumptions. Instead, I will observe and allow this to proceed. Often, challenging questions will bring about discomfort and that may allow deeper issues to be surfaced.

    I will also bring this up as a learning opportunity. I will share my observation that the team member seems disturbed by the question. How does the team feel about the question? What can they learn from that question?

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    urszula gasior

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    I would intervene as follows: “I am observing there is no full understanding of the question asked by X. What do you think about the question? What can we learn from it?”

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      Sandra Ullrich

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      I would wait. Within that waiting period I would explore my instinct and ask myself – ‘am I correctly reading the cues shown by the participant?’. Instinct is important and I think an important component in the ‘art’ of Action Learning, but responding to this instinct too quickly may disrupt a learning process for all the participants. Importantly, I would not want to take (to early) the opportunity for the participant who may feel uncomfortable with the ‘why’ question to explore how to respond to this. Learning to ask ‘elegant’ questions is integral to Action Learning but learning to answer ‘elegantly’ is just as important.

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    abhinav

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    It happened in one of my sessions, at that time I observed how the flow went and did not intervene. After couple of questions, everything went fine.

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    Luann

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    Being mindful that my instinct is my own interpretation of the event, I would allow time for the interaction to play out. The individual who appears visibly disturbed should have the opportunity to process his own feelings. I would only intervene if the situation was repeated multiple times or the tension escalated. In that case I would ask for an assessment of the group interactions. If any participants indicated a negative impact, I would follow up with a question about what we can do to create more productive interactions.

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    DrBea

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    I would do a check in starting with the standard 3 questions – How are we doing as a team? What are we doing well? What can we do better? Ideally, this would surface the situation. If not, I would ask –
    What has been the impact of our questions?
    Why is it important that we understand how our questions might be interpreted?
    How can we raise our awareness of the impact of our questions?

    I would modify my words based on the situation and the responses.

    The situation that this scenario is based on –
    I was a team member and asked a participant – Why this was a problem for him? I was attempting to get to the underlying problem, what he heard was I was questioning the validity of his stating this was a problem, Now when I ask the question I ask – How does this present itself as a problem for you?

    What I’ve learned is that there are people of an older generation that take “why” as questioning the person, alternately millennials are all about the why.

    Assuming this came out in my earlier questions, I would use that for my “so what” and now what” questions.

    For instance –
    Why is it important that we understand how different generations respond to certain words?
    How will we respect both sides of this within this team?

    Happy Coaching
    Bea

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    Hans Ploeg

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    As a coach I would repeat the question in my mind and listen to the intonation again. When I have the impression that the intonation is wrong / offensive I would interrupt by asking the person to rephrase the question. If not I would wait and see how the process will go.

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