Action learning skills very much reflect those skills required for coaching – the ability to ask good open, thought-provoking questions , the ability to allow reflection , excellent listening skills , feedback skills and challenging skills. These are skills that all action learning set members need to posses whilst the facilitator of the set needs to possess additional facilitation skills ensure that they manage the group effectively and develop group members.
The ability to ask powerful insightful questions of the issue holder is one of the key skills required of members of an action learning set. They should be able to ask effective ‘coaching’ questions which stimulate the issue holder to think though their issue, consider their options and choose a course of action. Effective questions are usually open questions (see sample GROW questions ) and are not leading questions in other words do not lead the issue holder to a pre-conceived solution.
All participants in an action learning set need excellent listening skills – the facilitator to accurately follow the process and intervene if it goes off-course or if inappropriate questions are asked, the presenter to listen carefully to questions being asked and any reflections given and for set members to listen to the presenter’s responses, gauge ‘where they are at with their issue, ’listen to the questions of the other members and ask appropriate follow-up questions.
Members must have the mindset that they themselves do not posses the answers and must put their own judgements, ideas and thoughts on the issue to one side until they are invited to. (see Resources Round in Action Learning Process). It is only by putting these thoughts to one side that they will ask questions for the benefit of the coachee and not ask leading questions.
Action learning skills also include the ability to give effective feedback, it's particularly necessary in the resources round for set members to feedback to the presenter what they have observed and they are also crucial skills for the facilitator who needs to feedback to the group their progress as a developing set.
A key coaching skill is the skill of challenging which set members may have to use when coaching the issue holder.
A key element of the action learning process is to develop set members’ ability to reflect on their own issues, reflect upon others’ issues and draw learning from the whole experience. Allowing silence after questions have been asked so the issue holder can give time to think through the question and time between questions helps to develop this space for critical reflection. Time should also be given for reflection in the process review so all set members can review the process, learn from it and plan to act differently next time.
The Action Learning Handbook: Powerful Techniques for Education, Professional Development and Training by Anne Brockbank and Ian McGill (Paperback - 6 Nov 2003)
Action Learning: A Practical Guide for Managers by Krystyna Weinstein (Paperback - 16 Nov 1998)
Action Learning and Group Coaching
What Is Action Learning
Action Learning Model
Action Learning Principles
Action Learning Ground Rules
Action Learning Set Roles
Action Learning Skills
Role Of Action Learning Facilitator
The Ideal Number Of Members In An Action Learning Set?
Lifetime Of An Action Learning Set
Business Mastermind Model