Brief Primer on ‘Action Learning Coaching’ Methods

Our dominate role as ‘action learning coaches’ is to pose the right questions to the team and sometimes to individuals in the team. This role requires the skill and focus to ask solid, learning-inducing questions at timely points in the team’s activity. We try to limit any direct statements simply to information sharing and process explanation responses to questions that the team members may pose to us. There are 4 types of ‘action learning coaching’ questions that we use:

1) Issue/problem framing and reframing questions 2) Action-planning strategy questions 3) Group-effectiveness assessment questions 4) Learning reflection questions.
Our questions need to be open and supportive, enabling the group to reflect on how they are doing as a group, how they can improve, what they are learning, and how their learning can be applied to themselves, their team colleagues and their organizations. Remember that the power and value is often more in our questions and the reflections they prompt rather than in the immediate responses they generate from the team. The coach must carefully consider and choose questions that best enable the group to improve its capacity as a group and, thereby, more quickly and effectively handle the problem the group is working on. The coach acts as a mirror, enabling the group to reflect on its behavior and experience and convert that reflection into learning insights and changes in their thinking and approach. Our value to the team process is in determining the right type of question to pose at a given point in the team dynamic and experience and sensing the ‘pregnant’ moment to pose the question (and suitable follow-up questions). If the coach intervenes too early, the group or individual may not have sufficient data to adequately respond and, thus, a ripe learning opportunity can be missed. But if the intervention is too late, there can also be a missed opportunity for learning, as well as demotivational frustration within the team because they are struggling too long in their effort. To have the most motivational influence on the team, keep largely to the Appreciative Inquiry method of questioning. Instead of asking what went wrong, ask questions that focus on what has gone well, what more can be done and how it can be improved.

Examples of “Action Learning” Questions:
Problem framing and reframing:
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Has the problem been defined in a clear and concise enough manner? Is the presented problem the actual fundamental or most important problem that needs to be solved? Why is this problem important to you and the organization? Will tackling this problem provide numerous learning opportunities?

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leveraging our team efforts. finding new solution resources. etc.? What is the impact of this new learning. systems-level thinking and acting.) What is the quality of our questions? Are we building on each other’s questions and ideas? Any examples? How creative have we been? How could we be more creative? What is the quality of our ideas? Our strategies? Our action planning?   Learning reflections  What have we learned so far about our project stakeholders. getting our planned tasks done on time and completely. doing a deeper issue analysis. what difference is it making in our approach and actions? What have you learned about yourself? How can we apply this learning to other parts of your work? What impact might it have? What helped us to learn?   General follow-up questions:    “Why?” “Can you give me an example?” “How?” Proprietary Information of Performance Consulting International Pte Ltd .Brief Primer on ‘Action Learning Coaching’ Methods Action planning and strategy:  Is this problem within the scope and direct understanding of one or more group members? Will the group or any members of the group have the authority to take the actions needed? What are the difficulties you anticipate as you and the organization work through this problem? How would you recognize progress on this problem? What will be the benefits if this problem is minimized or resolved?     Group effectiveness self-assessment (note that “we” is used to reflect a common purpose):  How are we doing as a team—okay or not okay? accomplish? What is the group attempting to     What did we do best? What helped us make progress? What was the impact of that? What hindered us? What could we do better? Can you be specific? Do we have clarity and agreement on the problem? (ask everyone to write this down.

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Coach: What are some ways in which we can be more creative? Responses: (May be several) Coach: Okay. Coach: Anyone else have any thoughts on why we are not building much on each other’s ideas? Response: I think we are more focused on getting our own ideas into the mix rather than really listening to other ideas. Coach: Why not? Response: Don’t know. Coach: Any other ideas as to why this is happening? Responses: (May be other responses) Coach: What is the impact of not being very interested in someone else’s ideas? Response: We show that we do not think much of their ideas.Brief Primer on ‘Action Learning Coaching’ Methods Illustration of a Coach-to-Team Interaction: Coach: What could we do better as a group? Response: We might be more creative. Coach: How could we be more creative? Response: (No response) Coach: Why do you think we are not being creative? Response: I do not think we are building on each other’s ideas. let’s resume the project work. Team Self-Assessment Survey (on following page) Proprietary Information of Performance Consulting International Pte Ltd .

were we willing to say things that felt awkward or a bit risky to express and to tackle the tougher issues and explore less unfamiliar areas? 1 5.Brief Primer on ‘Action Learning Coaching’ Methods Team Effectiveness Survey Instructions: Circle the one number that best reflects your experience of your team interactions and thinking during this meeting only for each factor described below. Did we sustain a positive. did we reach decisions and conclusions effectively and map out clear accountabilities for follow-up efforts and well defined deliverables? 6. Did we stay sufficiently focused and manage our time and agenda well. probe each other’s thinking. high energy level and 1 enjoyable interactions during our meeting? 2. did we identify practical ways to make use of these learning gains? 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 How could we improve our effectiveness for the next meeting/interaction? What might prevent this improvement from happening? Proprietary Information of Performance Consulting International Pte Ltd . help clarify points made)? (2) 2 2 (3) 3 3 (4) 4 4 (5) 5 5 1 2 3 4 5 4. Did we build on each other thoughts and think vigorously together (challenge assumptions. share contrasting views. were there new insights and learnings that got captured and shared during our meeting. Were we all contributing during the meeting. raise related issues. Never Occasionally True of Us True of Us Sometimes True of Us Often True of Us Always True of Us (1) 1. Were we attentive to each other. listening closely 1 to each other’s inputs and allowing few distractions? 3. Did we set aside and make good use of reflection moments in the midst of our work.