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Build this powerful, influential skill to help make sense of change, communicate clearly and engage people in the most challenging situations
  

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    « Stop studying (for a moment) and start shipping | Main | Keeping Calm - Visual Thoughts... »
    Wednesday
    Jul062011

    Trying to engage with your team? Try a few questions, not statements...  

    What  would  you  think  if  I  said  there’s  too  much  ‘telling’  going  on  and  not  enough  ‘asking’?    Percentage-­‐ wise,  how  many  questions  have  you  asked  today  vs  statements  you’ve  made?  Have  you  been  more  on   the  telling  people  things  side  of  the  spectrum  than  asking  questions?

    As  a  facilitator,  I’m  a  little  biased  towards  questions.  Finding  out  what’s  going  on,  what  people  are   thinking,  where  they  want  to  get  to  with  their  work  or  project  and  then  helping  a  group  set  out  a  plan  to   achieve  that.       But  as  a  manager  and  leader,  how  often  do  you  think  about  the  questions  you’re  going  to  ask?  In  an   interview  you  do,  sure.  But  what  about  your  team  meeting?  Or  a  project  check-­‐point  with  peers?  Or  a   ‘work  in  progress’  meeting  with  your  leader?

    In  the  work  I  do  with  groups  and  teams  –  across  corporate,  community  and  not-­‐for-­‐profit  organisations   –  I  see  and  hear  so  many  more  statements  than  questions.  And  there  are  many  opportunities  to  get  a   better  outcome  by  asking  a  question  first.

    Today,  thousands  of  mangers,  team  leaders  and  business  people  have  been  trying  to  get  people  to   understand  them  by  telling-­‐telling-­‐telling.  And  then  when  they’re  not  heard,  they  try  telling  it  all  over   again,  but  LOUDER.  You  can  probably  hear  some  of  them  from  your  desk!

    Yes,  there  are  open  questions  to  gather  information  and  open  up  the  conversation  (who,  what,  when,   where,  how,  why,  tell  me  about...)  and  there  are  closed  or  confirming  questions  (is,  are,  did,  would,   could,  can).       Did  you  know  that  when  you  don’t  think  about  the  questions  you  ask,  you’re  more  likely  to  ask  a  closed   question?  (That’s  a  closed  question;  answer  yes  or  no).  What  might  you  and  your  team  achieve  if  you   planned  for  and  then  asked  a  mix  of  open  and  closed  questions?  (Yep,  that’s  an  open  question).

    Questions  aren’t  a  sign  of  not  knowing.  They  won’t  show  you  up  as  the  dumbo  of  the  team.  They’ll   actually  help  you  get  to  where  you  need  to  quicker  and  with  far  less  pain  than  telling,  telling,  telling,   arguing,  debating,  telling  some  more,  deep  breathing  and  then  fuming.

    Here’s  why:  a  few  questions  at  the  start  of  a  meeting  with  a  peer  (What  are  you  hoping  to  get  out  of  our   catch  up?  What  are  the  challenges  that  are  most  pressing  for  you  at  the  moment?  How  is  your  team   responding  to  the  restructure?)  will  reveal  so  much  more  and  prepare  a  fertile  ground  for  you  to  plant   effective  statements  when  you  need  them.

    Last  week  I  had  a  meeting  with  a  colleague  who  had  just  completed  a  poor  performance  conversation   with  one  of  their  team  members.  My  colleague  had  been  all  about  telling  the  team  member  what  wasn’t   working  and  then  telling  them  what  they  had  to  improve  on.  Yes,  oh  so  engaging  for  the  team  member.   Buy-­‐in  level  =  15%.  Enthusiasm  level  =15%.  Opportunity  for  trying  something  different  next  time  =  100%.

    The  conversation  (that  means  two-­‐way  folks!)  could  have  involved  some  questions  up  front  and  then   based  on  the  answers  and  responses,  the  conversation  could  achieve  much  more  –  for  both  parties.       ‘How  have  you  been  finding  the  changes  in  your  role  over  the  past  few  months?’   ‘What  have  you  enjoyed  about  the  role?’   ‘What’s  challenging  or  frustrating  for  you?’   ‘What  areas  of  your  performance  do  you  think  we  could  discuss  and  work  on  today?’     These  can  help  set  an  agenda  for  the  meeting  and  focus  on  engaging  the  team  member  to  buy-­‐in  to  the   fact  that  this  is  about  them.  It’s  not  about  the  manager  telling  them  what  to  do.

    Some  organisations  call  these  coaching  conversations  and  will  give  you  a  little  laminated  card  with  cheat   questions  on  it  so  you  know  what  to  ask.  That’s  great  –  at  least  you  can  do  some  thinking  before  the   meeting,  interaction  or  conversation  about  the  questions  you’ll  ask.

    I’m  sure  there’s  plenty  a  notebook  or  Ipad  in  your  organisation  today  with  a  list  of  key  points  to  be  ‘told’   at  the  next  meeting.       So  for  the  next  meeting  you’re  at,  prepare  a  list  of  questions  you’ll  ask  people.  You’ll  be  more  engaging,   they’ll  be  more  involved,  the  interaction  will  truly  be  an  interaction,  and  you’ll  be  getting  focused  about   the  information  you  need,  before  you  launch  into  a  statement  or  two.

    How  does  that  sound?  Do  you  think  that’s  something  you’ll  be  able  to  put  into  practice  for  your  meeting   later  today?  What  things  might  get  in  the  way  of  that  happening?  Would  you  let  me  know  how  that   goes?

    Reader Comments (1)

    A good reminder :) thanks Lynne.

    May 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKirstin

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