Three questions about Action Learning
Sometimes the right question is worth more than a hundred solutions. This is an account of how and why we use Action Learning at VCC Live to improve the way we collaborate and co-create with each other.
Coaching and Action Learning are methodologies that, over many years, have shown remarkable results in helping with problem solving and conflict management in businesses. According to this year’s CCW Digital Contact Center Priorities for 2018 report, coaching and training improvement are the number 1 strategy for contact centers in 2018! They seem to work miracles when used for agent experience strategy, but how do they achieve this? And why did it suddenly become such an important trend in the business world? At VCC Live, we have actively been using Action Learning for a number of years. In this week’s article, we’d like to share with you how it has helped us to work better and become smarter.
What’s so WOW about Action Learning?
- First things first.
- Action Learning is an activity in which a group of people and a coach help a problem owner generate creative ideas for solving their problem. Unlike coaching, where the problem owner tackles the issue alone with the help of a coach, Action Learning is a group-based activity.
- Knowing yourself and your weaknesses well does not necessarily mean you also know how to solve problems you come up against. Often what you need is an outside person to help get you on the right track. The essence of both coaching and Action Learning is that participants ask as many questions as possible, to allow the problem owner to consider their options and come up with a solution. However, Action Learning does not provide ready answers on a silver plate. Instead, it inspires people to think and find out for themselves what’s best for them, based on their own reflections. Involving a group of people with different points of view allows the problem owner to approach the topic from different perspectives. This not only brings a team closer together, but encourages individuals and teams to become more self-supportive and solution-driven. In addition, it also helps:
- team members learn to take responsibility for their decisions and actions
- solve actual every-day company problems, providing real and needed support
- individuals learn to watch out for each other, leave their comfort zone and consider people around them by learning to ask the right questions
- with individual self-reflection, the self-reflection section that closes any Action Learning session being something that can be taken away and thought about later.
What you need in order to really benefit from Action Learning?
You can utilize different models of coaching, depending on your needs, the group you are working with, the topic, and the personality of the person you’re coaching. The key to a successful Action Learning session is empathy, but here are a few more things we at VCC Live have discovered in our own Action Learning sessions:
- Make sure you use an experienced coach! Even though team members ask the questions, and the problem owner comes up with a solution, it is very important to have the right facilitator in place, to observe group dynamics and eliminate negative influences.
- Learn to ask the right questions! Questions should be open, with no “yes” or “no” answers allowed. Questions should make people think more deeply, and encourage them to talk without being influenced. Not as easy as it sounds!
- Know when to separate or unite! If you are trying to solve a conflict between two people, then you shouldn’t have both of them participating in the same session. Choose carefully whether you need a group exercise or individual coaching.
People find it easy to formulate their thoughts when saying what makes them feel uncomfortable. But describing what would make them feel better can often be a challenge. This is because most of the time they handle issues at an emotional level. But situations that are the source of frustration are never truly black and white. We perceive them as such only if we’re handling them emotionally. If we move out of our emotional zones, we can see things more clearly. The guidelines above helped us assemble effective Action Learning groups, and take people out of this emotional “black-and-white” mentality. It motivated them to look for actual solutions to their frustrations, rather than run around in circles.
What has Action Learning brought for VCC Live?
Boglárka Hidvégi, Head of the Human Resources department at VCC Live, introduced Action Learning to our company in 2015 in order to help improve communication dynamics. At first, Action Learning was used to solve minor issues and conflicts. But after seeing its benefits and how it was helping team members become more efficient, the number of groups and activities expanded. Today, these groups receive the help they need in order to overcome the issues they are confronted with. They also develop a confident problem-solving and professional mindset.
“The magic of Action Learning, compared to similar development training methods, is that after a while it becomes a natural part of the organization and work processes,” Boglárka states. “It develops skills which unconsciously build up in people’s mindsets, and they begin to start using them unconsciously, without even noticing.”
Because of its principles based on self-reflection and self-management, Action Learning has allowed our teams to build skills such as:
- internal and cross-department communication dynamics
- readiness for self-management, and a boost of productivity
- conflict handling, and a solution-oriented mindset
As with every other organization, we also always aim to find high-quality answers to any question that arises in front of us. Teaching people the skill of self-reflection and how to ask the right question has been an indispensable tool in this. Since the introduction of Action Learning we have made our communication and problem-solving practices faster and more efficient. We enable people to solve issues self-sufficiently and with confidence.
“Helping people become better in their work is not the only important thing in an organization,” adds Boglárka. “Making sure they feel good and are empowered to change the things that cause them stress is also important. They should feel good with what they’re doing.”
Action Learning has helped us find a solution for many questions: from handling conflicts, through improving processes, and even personal issues. Sometimes, a problem owner realizes that the solution to their problem is beyond their competence, and they need to pass it on to someone else. At other times, the solution can be simply finding the right work-life balance, and once changes have been made, things return to normal. In any case, a real “WOW”-moment is very symbolic of Action Learning. People become committed to the methodology, and enjoy coming to the sessions.
We all have different personalities. Sometimes we click, at other times we clash. We all come with a ready set of feelings and emotions, and even when we’re at our most professional, these feelings sometimes come up to the surface and influence our actions. In a business environment, it’s very important to handle these situations with the utmost care and attention. In today’s world, Action Learning coaching has been proven to provide the perfect solution for situations like this. And as a company utilizing Action Learning methodology, we can also confirm this is true.