Action Learning Sets as Booster for Effective Interpersonal Communication

by Matteo Barbetta, Ciofs-fp

Every partner of the Good Guidance Stories 2.0 project was tasked with writing a case study. The work was undertaken by participating in a Community of Practice (CoP) and using the method of Action Learning Sets (ALS) – a small group of skilled professionals collaborating on a particular issue through a critical and reflective process.

When I first read the guiding principles of ALS, I initially thought they seemed obvious. These principles can be summarized as empathy, assertive communication, and a non-judgemental attitude.

I assumed this is what we always refer to in our internal meetings, and there seemed no need to highlight these basic concepts. Later on, however, when these principles were put into practice and we had to perform an ALS, I was surprised to realize that we were all paying close attention to the guidelines. This was actually making our meetings significantly more enjoyable and effective.

A quote from the training course we previously took part in within the project’s learning platform illuminates this approach:

“… members … will refrain from giving advice or taking over the problem. Instead they will continue listening, quite often allowing silence and asking questions to clarify the presenter’s understanding, rather than their own”.

After the experience of participating in the Action Learning Sets, I realised it is neither obvious nor trivial. It is a cornerstone of effective interpersonal communication, and not something one naturally possesses, but rather an attitude cultivated over time through attention and training.

l think it is reassuring that professionals from different European countries are called to work together according to these principles, and I hope this becomes a widespread habit at all levels, from citizens to institutions.