As an action learning coach, how would you handle the following situation:
You are doing a leadership development program with 8 peers in a consulting firm. One of the participants reports that her boss brought an issue to her yesterday that she had discussed in the action learning group a week ago. She is very upset. (The problem centered around not being given the responsibility that her boss had promised her when she was hired a year ago.) As it turns out one of the other team members decided she could help by going to talk to the boss. The team had agreed to keep what was said during the Action Learning confidential. Consequently, the trust has been shattered for this team member.
I assume the program has to go unless the situation. Therefore, I would start discussion with the team by short resume of the situation. Afterwards, I would ask the following questions: “How do we feel about it?”; “How it impacts the future work?”; “What do we need as a team to move forward despite the situation?”; “What we will do to avoid similar situation in the future?”; “What we will do if it happens anyway?”.
As an action learning coach I would, assuming that
1) the participant for whom trust has been shattered reports this IN the session, address it. I am imagining that she would share it at the outset of the session, in the check-in, that she is very upset that something which she shared in confidence, and thought was confidential to the work in the action learning sessions has been shared outside of the team with her boss, and that she feels trust has been totally broken, shattered. I would ask her ‘What is the impact on you?’ and then ask the team What is the impact on the team? And what do we want to do about it. My concern would be that I would not want the person who had, unwittingly shared a confidence, with the best of intentions to help her team member to feel bad, or singled out, rather that I would want the team to re-commit to confidentiality and in this session to have as a team intention rebuilding of trust, and re-commitment to confidentiality.
2) the person contacts me to tell me the action learning coach that she is very upset, that her trust in the team has been shattered due to confidentiality having been broken. As the action learning coach I would acknowledge the impact on her, and ask what she would like to do that would help her. I would use open questioning to fully explore the problem, and how she would like to move forward and seek to help her work through to an action/solution.
In both 1) and 2) I would as the action learning coach be keen to stay in the coach role, and to be in service of the whole team whilst very much supporting the person who understandably felt so betrayed by her team member.
Lee Kwan Meng
As the Action Learning coach, I would assume that the person who broke her trust is a member of the Action Learning group. So being an AL coach, I would ask the team to keep an open mind about the situation without siding any member including the member who is upset about her trust being broken.
However, they should delve deeper into the crux of the issue:
1) how could the team move on with this issue. This question could determine the seriousness of the issue upon the group.
2) could this issue would affect the performance of the team. If not, then the team can go back to its original goal. If yes, then the team has to decide whether this team has to be reconstituted now that confidentiality and trust have been broken.
3) And as the Action Learning coach, I will also have to assess my own performance to determine whether I have failed the team by allowing this trust and confidentiality to be broken.
Nevertheless, no one should be blamed for this issue of broken trust and confidentiality. But instead, as the coach, I will have to get the team to acknowledge the role of this member whose trust have been broken, and get the team to support her and move on with the task of the team. At the same time, she should also be given the choice on whether to remain in the team or not.
Finally, whatever the decisions of the team, the team has to either: 1) continue and move forward with the original task at hand, or 2) decide to reconstitute a new team that can later revisit the original issue and continue with the task.
As an Action Learning Coach, I would listen to the participant’s complaint and ask the other one who tried to help by talking to the colleague’s boss if she would like to speak too, giving her time to explain her reasons.Then I would ask the group if they would like to use that day’s Action Learning session to deal with this emerging issue.
If the answer was positive, the question of breach of confidentiality would be addressed in the session. If the team’s answer was negative, I would directly address the issue of confidentiality with the following question:
– Team, we agreed that everything that was shared in the Action Learning sessions would be considered confidential and today we are facing a situation that involves a disregard for this agreement. How are we going to address this issue of confidentiality going forward?
As an Action Learning Coach, I see that this is the moment I can utilize to help team overcome hard situation and engage them. While intervening, I have to keep in mind that I should avoid digging deeper to the past and try to ask positive, future focused questions.
This is how I will intervene. Let call the member who tried to help is A:
1. Hello A, I heard that you were trying to help, and the result did not go as expected, how do you feel right now?
2. What if we can comeback and do it over again, what would you do? (Talk to A)
3. Hello team, as we heard the story form both sides, what will be your next actions to help our team overcome this situation and move forward? (Listen and take note)
4. What will we do to prevent this situation happen again? (Listen and take note)
5. Do you have agreement to stop this situation here and move forward with our actions? Yes or No? (Check individually)
6. Yes! Who have the next question?