Scenario: Coffee Break

As an action learning coach, how would you handle the following situation: A participant gets up from the group to fill a cup of coffee continuing to stay engaged with the problem solving.

Tags: Action Learning, ActionLearning Coach, Team Coach, WIAL, WIAL Action Learning, WIAL Talk

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Comments (20)

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    M Meulesteen-Kuipers

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    I would ask for a time out and say I would like to talk about what just happened.
    I would like the group to say if it s oke or not. If we should make an agreement about the coffee taking. Are we going on with the session while taking coffee or shall we make appointments about when to pause. So no taking coffee while we are talking with each other because it distracts too much and does not do justice to the ones who keep on sitting?

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      M Meulesteen-Kuipers

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      Through open questions of course: how do you feel about what just happened; what was the impact on the group process; how do we want the session to continue? etc.

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    Kevin Fan

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    Depends on how long he took and whether his behavior interfere the team, if the impact is minor, I will prefer just skip it and see how it goes later on (the intention is not to bring too much unnecessary interference to the conversation of team..
    Yet, if such behavior does interfere team’s dynamic, I will raise up my inquiry “How did you think the team participated in the conversation just now? anything good? anything to improve?”

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    Marcin Kamieński

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    The question is “What have we established earlier? Important are our team rules. If we have predicted it, I don’t do anything, but if we haven’t defined this rule, I stop the session and ask participants – “What does this do to you?”or “How do you feel with this situation?”
    I ask the feedback from all participants and later the team decide for example: “this is OK for us”, “we have to write a new rule” and so on….

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    Jessica McWade

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    Three points come to mind. 1) Context matters. Is the coffee nearby and did the person return quickly and without serious interference? What was the nature of his or her “continuing to stay engaged”? Depending on the answers to these questions, I might just leave it alone so that the team can stay focused on its work. 2) That said, I’d be concerned about this becoming a precedent. Will others now get up for coffee ? What, if any, groundrules were set at the start of the session about individual or collective breaks and are we in compliance with them? 3). If we are not in compliance with groundrules, then I’d ask the team what’s happening and what they want to do about it. If groundrules for this were never established, and more people are getting up for coffee, I’d ask the team how they are reacting to this situation and what they want to do about it.

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    Melisah Feeney

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    It would depend on the context, situation, problem being tackled, rules established between the group and the timing of the action (and thus the impact on the group).

    I do not necessarily see a problem if the person’s quality of attention is present and they dont disturb the flow of reflection and discovery. The person may be getting up because they have a back problem, low sugar etc and that by getting up the quality of their attention and contribution can improve. So the important thing is to read the situation and check how this impacts on the quality of the group problem solving.

    If it seems to lower the quality of focus or distract others who then get up then an intervention may be warranted but it wouldnt be the first response to call that out. The end of process reflection is another point upon which the group has a chance to raise the impact in terms of what would we do better next time.

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    Jeremy Gwee

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    While the person standing up to take coffee may be focused on solving the problem, his/her movement can be distracting to others. As a part of the ground rules, participants should be told to avoid moving around unless it is absolutely necessary. And to avoid this even though ground rules are spelled out, ask all the participants to take their toilet break, refill their coffees, switch off their phones and any other activity that they deem necessary to make themselves comfortable. If the session is expected to last for 90 minutes, I will tell the participants that at some points in the conversation, I will allow them to stretch. Depending on the participants and the complexity of the problem solving, I will probably give one or at most a 5-minute break. Telling this as a pre-session ground-rule prepare the participants and reduce or eliminate such possible disruption.

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    Brittany Hartman

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    As a coach, as soon as the person go up for a coffee break, I would say- I’ve observed someone getting up and leaving for a coffee break, did anyone else observe this? I would also ask how it impacted the team dynamic. Should rules be set for the team if someone leaves in the middle of a conversation? Also, we may want to focus or talk about rules before our action learning session starts.

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    Ulla Willner

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    Since it is noted that the person continued to be engaged, and provided he/she was not being noisy or interrupting or visibly irritating the group/presenter, I would wait until my next intervention and raise the topic with the group to assess if this was something they were ok about it or whether consensus regarding breaks were needed. If however the getting up for coffee immediatly would have caused noise, interruption or visibly agitated the discussion, I would intervene immediatly. If I personnally would lead an AL session in the same room as the coffee facilities are I would likely make a point of establising clearly before the formal start of the AL process at what time we will break for refreshments, emphasize the importance of presence in the process and make sure there was consensus.

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    Giovanni Friso

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    I could intervene with:
    “I noticed that someone is leaving the group for a coffee break, did anyone else observe this?”
    “What is the impact on the team?”
    “How can we manage it for the remaining time? Do you think is it necessary to set a rule on coffee breaks?”

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    Katrina Dickson

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    What I would do would depend on initial agreements, the “tone” of the group and whether or not other members appeared to be disrupted by the person getting up to refill their coffee. Any intervention by me at this stage may be more disruptive than the person getting up to refill their coffee in the first place. If the group continued as if nothing had happened then I am likely to leave any questions about this until the end of the session. At the end of the session I would say ‘I noticed that during the session, a group member got up to refill their coffee. Did any one else observe this? (if this is regular behaviour in the workplace, then it is possible that no one else noticed). Did this impact the group? If so, in what ways? How would you like to proceed in future sessions? Do you want to make any agreements on refilling coffees in the future? If they do make agreements, I would note them and we would revisit these at the start of the next session, so everyone is reminded of them.

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    Monika Wawoczny

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    I observe group behavior. Based on the assumption that the group sets its own work rules (apart from the 2 main AL rules) – if participants are still solving the problem and are involved – I do nothing. If I noticed a behavior that suggested nervousness or something similar – I would intervene and ask, “How are we doing?” “What can we do better?” If it bothered someone, he or she would have the opportunity to tell about it.

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    Retno Susilo Wardani

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    As a coach I will intervere by asking to the team
    “What is happing now? ” And continue asking “Are they convenience with the situation now? ”
    I also asking “What is the implication to the team?”
    Then I finally ask to the team “what their decision about the situation?”

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    YUE TAN

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    I would ask the team: “How do you feel our current energy level? If we score our measurement on a scale of 1-10, what’s the score you would give?” Then refer to the team score ,I will ask ” OK then,Let ’s make a choice,continue our agenda or take a break right now, what’s your decision? ” Let the team make their own decisions,and learn to manage their schedule.

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    YUE TAN

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    YUE TAN:I would ask the team: “How do you feel our current energy level? If we score our measurement on a scale of 1-10, what’s the score you would give?” Then refer to the team score ,I will ask ” OK then,Let ’s make a choice,continue our agenda or take a break right now, what’s your decision? ” Let the team make their own decisions,and learn to manage their schedule.

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    Alex Hoang

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    I will use SID for this scenario. (S) “I noticed one member gets up from the group” Or “What is happening?” – (I) What will happen to the team if we continue without him/her? – (D) What should we do?

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    Alessandra Denis

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    I would make the intervention for reflection: I noticed that the participant got up to get a coffee, did anyone else observe? What arrangements would the group like to make regarding this fact?

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    Patrick Kok

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    I will intervene when the last question is asked, “Hold on Team, what is happening here?” No answer from the Team, I’ll continue to probe “What just happen?” When the team respond that a team member has left the group discussion for a coffee. I’ll continue by asking “Is the group comfortable with this? Yes or No?”

    If yes, then I will ask who had the last question and to repeat the question again. If no, then I will ask, “Team please decide on how this session should continue?”. Once the team has come to a consensus on the conduct of the session, I’ll than proceed asking “Who has the next question?”

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    Shirley Loh

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    It would depend on what was agreed before we start the session, context and situation. If the participant is just taking the coffee and coming back to the team noting that he is still engaged, I would have left it alone.
    But if I see some disturbances, then I will ask the team :
    – Hey team, how is our energy level, on a scale of 1-10 where are we ?
    If the score is not great, I will ask the team… Alright team, shall we make a choice here, should we continue with the session or take a short break and be back ?

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    Barry Hellings

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    This would be a moment where I would intervene. I would notice that I see something happening which we did not agree on. I would suggest a short break to let the group of participants decide what to do with the situation. Leave it up to te team if they want to talk about this right away or not. I’m pretty sure this will be noticed by the observants anyway.

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