11 thoughts on “Scenario: Out There

  1. Carole

    I am assuming they are in the first phase–clarifying the issue. I would call a pause and ask the group, “What’s working well right now in helping you clarify the challenge?” and follow up with, “How are the questions about ‘X unrelated issue’ helping or not helping?” I would try to be neutral because I may not understand the linkages between the questions and the challenge. The members asking the questions may see it but may not be making it explicit to everyone else.

    If they discover that they are off topic, then I would ask,”How do you want to handle this new topic? ” and follow up then or at the end of the session with “How do you want to handle it when people get off topic int he future?” My goal as the coach is to help the group learn that when they notice that they are off topic, they can step forward and redirect the group.

    It’s important for people to speak up during action learning–voicing their confusion or other concerns when it occurs. I don’t want to foster an atmosphere in the group of ‘submission’–I don’t want people to be voiceless because they don’t know if it is OK to say, “I’m confused” or “This isn’t working for me”.

  2. Cleo Wolff

    At the first opportunity I would intervene and ask: In a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is very poor and 10 highly rich, what is the quality of the connection between the questions that have been asked to the members? If they give high score, I would ask Who has the next question and wait for another opportunity or even try to understand what I have not seen as my perception is different from them. If someone gives a low score, I would ask why and from that on, ask the team what can be improved concerning the content that has been put on the table.


  3. Fred N.

    Agree with prior posts regarding helping the team reflect and self-monitor on the quality of their questions. I might also see tangential questions as a sign that some in the group are losing interest in the problem/process. If I get a sense for this, I might ask “How’s the energy level in the room?” if I get some confirmation that people are drifting off task out of fatigue or the like, I’d ask what we could do to get the energy level back up to help us regain focus.

  4. Phil Cohen

    I would ask the group, “How are we doing on a scale of 1-10?” Should the response be ‘great’; I would then ask “do we have consensus on the problem?” If we find little or no consensus, I would ask”What direction can we take to help us reach consensus and/or would asking open ended questions help us find consensus?” On the other hand, if the response to how are we doing was low on the scale, I might ask” what can we do to improve on our progress?” I want the group to work out the problem and move themselves forward.

  5. Dorothy Tsui




  6. Amy Moore

    Depending upon how often (as in first or second time together) and where (in terms of timing of the meeting) the group is, I might wait to see if there are connections made between the comments that are viewed to be off track. If the group continues for a further period of time that is off track, the comments made already are powerful. Sometimes I’ve found that waiting – and avoiding the first temptation to ask a question – and seeing where the conversation goes often can help the group explore areas where they might not have made connections to.

  7. Carole Shaw

    I really like the alternative coaching questions proposed by Cleo and Fred. They open up rich avenues for discussion by the group and also reminds them to assess interest and energy.

  8. DrBea Post author

    It’s fine to use the scale of 1 – 10 questions. When these are used the follow up questions get addressed to the group, not to the individuals that rated it low. The what are we doing well, and what can be better questions apply regardless of the score.

    For this one after the standard interevention, I woud likely ask – How focused are we on accomplishing what we need to get done today?

    Happy Coaching

  9. mattfarmer

    I would intervene with the question, “What question is the group responding to at this time”. In my experience this would focus the team back on the questions in hand and its purpose. If this doesn;t get us further then asking, what is our purpose for being here” mighty just do that.

  10. John S.

    I might ask questions such as; “I’m having difficulty seeing the relivance of these questions to the problem. Is anyone else experiencing this problem? Or another typical response from me might be; “How do these questions relate to the problem we are trying to resolve? Can anyone bring me up to speed?

    John S.

  11. Lere Baale

    My personal experience is that such issue is usually addressed when i ask the question : why are we gathered here today? What is the primary purpose of our gathering? In order to make better use of our precious time, what should be the focus of our questions today or from now on?


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