Scenario: Missing Participant

As an Action Learning Coach how would you handle the following situation:

  The team you are coaching is working on a critical corporate problem in a leadership development program. The leadership program and work on the project is scheduled to be completed over six months.  Two of the eight people in the group do not show up routinely.

15 thoughts on “Scenario: Missing Participant

  1. Paulo

    In the presentation of AL there is no rule that tds should attend. As I’m already in the group a while … routinely Another point to assess whether the 2 are missing, the group has proceeded well so far?
    In this review I will close encounter followed by a question: I noticed that 2 people in the group are missing routinely. What is the impact of this behavior on the group. As we want to deal with it in the future?

  2. Patricia C. Gonzalez

    I would start the next meeting by testing the group to see if they would like to set a norm that deals with absences. This way the responsibility for dealing with the absences is in the hands of the team,not the coach.

  3. Maddy M

    As an Action Learning coach in this situation, I would intervene and offer an observation as an opportunity for learning and for improving the performance of the group, saying that “I have observed that 2 of the 8 people in the group are not showing up routinely”. I would then ask, “Is anyone else in the group is also noticing this?” and “How does this affect the team?” I might also ask, ‘What’s the effect in other teams you’ve been on when team members don’t show up regularly, as planned?”.

    Assuming the team members are also noticing this, I would then ask the group how they think this is effecting this group? If they feel it is negatively impacting the group (e.g., hindering the group’s progress or effectiveness), I would ask them “how would the group like to handle the situation?”.

    I would then let the group determine the best course of action. Some of the scenarios might be that the group decides to take turns catching up the 2 other team members whenever they are absent, or the team may find a different time to meet when everyone can attend, or they may decide to ask the 2 people if they would like to be excused, and may or may not replace them. Since the ideal group size is between 6 – 7 people, the group size should not be an issue if they decide to excuse the 2 people who are unable to attend regularly.

    Again, I would let the group determine how they’d like to proceed.

  4. Scott Eade

    Based on Action Learning methodologies I would ask the group what they would like to do about the two participants that are not turning up to the AL sessions routinely. This question may assist the group to make a determination about whether to keep persisting with the two paricipants that aren’t attending the sessions, or alternatively make a decision to replace the two participants with other employees that are able to commit to the sessions. They may decide that the two particpants have had other more critical and urgent problems to deal with from a corporate perspective but that decision will be ultimately made by the group and they can then proceed with the AL sessions based on that decision.

  5. Amy Moseley

    At the beginning of a session, I might ask “I’m noticing we are missing team members. How would the group like to proceed with so-and-so missing?” How can we ensure they get the information they need to be successful when they re-join the group?” I may also address at the end of any AL session by asking ‘how are we operating as a team?” and follow up with “Do we have balanced participation as a group?”. As a result of these questions, I would ask the group, “How would you like to address the imbalance?”

  6. Pam Houghton

    Lots of great responses so far. I think another intervention point could be where the group is picking actions to be done outside the group meeting. The coach could ask “How does the group want to address that we have members not present to pick what they will work on before we meet again?”

  7. ChauChyiTai

    I will ask the group what is their awareness of the two members routinely absent from the sessions. What is the impact to the team if this persists on? What are actions they like to take as a group to change this if this is what they want.

  8. Cleo Wolff

    After having realized that became a routine, I would ask the team: I have noticed that A and B are not coming to our sessions. Has anyone else noticed that? What is the impact for the team not having two of your team members routinely? How are we going to deal with this situation? Whatever the team decision is, we, as AL Coach should respect. If the decision taken by the team do not work in solving the problem, we can either to go through questions again or to put this as a team problem.

  9. Emily Rogers

    In the next session I would ask the team “what is the impact of x and y being absent on a regular basis?” and let the team assess the impact.

    I would then ask “what does the team want to do about it?” Ultimately it is the team’s decision if the two people being absent is an issue. They may decide they don’t want them on the team anymore, or they may decide to continue with them absent.

    If they decide they don’t want them on the team, I would ask x and y to join us so that they can be told clearly the team have decided to remove them from the group.

  10. Popsy

    I agree with Emily.
    They are members of the team, and the team needs to assess the impact of what is happening. I would be curious as to WHY they routinely miss meetings. The team may want to give them a chance to explain and perhaps bow out for their own reasons. They may be able to participate by Skype or conference call if they are on travel.
    We still have six people on the team who show up regularly and since Action Learning teams are made up of 4 – 8 people, the team may choose to move forward without the two participants. Ultimately, it is a team decision.

  11. Tammy Liu

    I will tell the team I observed two persons being absent routinely and ask whether they are aware of it ? What will be the impact on the team if they continue to be absent ?
    What will the team do to deal with the situation ? They may decide to understand reason for absence first or decide right away to continue without the two in the team .It ultimately will be team decision which AL Coach will respect and I think it’s also a learning opportunity for the team to reach an agreement on decision.

  12. Colleen Carruthers

    I had a team that I was coaching that had this exact problem, except that the team arrived very angry for one of our meetings and brought up the topic. A member was consistently late, never showed up for most of the meetings, sat on the phone through some of the meetings and rarely showed up to the meetings they scheduled to work on things between the AL sessions. As they started dumping their anger out on the table, I quickly asked the question “How is this impacting the team? then a few minutes later “How would you, as a team, like to handle this?
    They determined that they would speak to the member and did so – nothing changed as he agreed that he was holding this team as a low priority because he felt he was working on more important things. For the next meeting, I once again asked questions like? Where are you at with this situation now? What do you want to do? What will the impact of that be on the team and on the person? Eventually they decided to escalate the issue to the HR person who put the teams together. The team representative asked whether or not she could speak with the manager and suggest that the person seemed to be working on other things and whether they could sort out the person’s priorities. The offending person was removed from the team and the team settled down immediately and got productive. The situation was handled diplomatically and ensured the least loss of face for the offending person.

  13. William Chew

    As the group is working on critical corporate problem with deliverables expected at the end of the sixth month, I would have discussed this upfront during contracting with the sponsor and to ensure that there was adequate support from co-workers to help cover the work duties of participants during their sessions (if their absence is work-related).

    During the session, I could help the teams explore “What is the impact of the disruptions caused by members coming and going on the team’s learning?” Depending on the response, I could follow up with impact questions such as “How does this impact the quality of the discussions?” “How does this impact the ability of the team to draw on the diverse experience within the team?” “How does this impact the quality of our decisions and actions?” “How does this impact our ability to practice and demonstrate our leadership skill?”

  14. Robin LLewellyn

    Assuming that at the establishment of the members of the action learning team, attendance and commitment was discussed and the critical nature of the work agreed upon. I would ask the team, how the absenteeism impacts the team. I would ask how they would like to move forward. I would ask who and how the follow up actions would be shared with the rest of the group. Although valuable time would be consumed by moving forward with changes to the dynamics of the actions taken, once the issue was resolved and stability returned to the group, the effectiveness would return.

  15. DrBea Post author

    As some have mentioned here – teams are great at determine the best course of action when the situation is brought to conscious awareness and they are asked to determine a deliberate path forward. What’s right for one team is not necessarily the answer for another.

    I would bring it to awareness (What) I’ve observed 2 missing participants. Has anyone else noticed this?
    (So What) What’s the impact of that on the team?
    (Now What) How would the team like to handle it?

    Happy Coaching

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