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8 effective questions to create discussion

Your boss just asked for questions during an all-hands meeting, and she’s looking right at you. What do you say?

If you’re like most people, you clam up and send mental messages to everyone not to ask any questions so that you all can get back to work.

But, if you do that, you’re missing several opportunities.

Go narrow & deep, not wide & shallow

The boss asked for questions to make sure that people understood the issues she discussed, and to demonstrate her willingness to listen. So many people believe their boss doesn’t listen, but they won’t give him/her something to listen to! She could have done a better job of asking, though. “Any questions?” is rather wide and shallow. Where should we start?!?

She could instead go narrow and deep — ask specific people specific questions. That helps create an environment rich in dialogue and discussion, sharing and supportive. It’s more than mere lip service to listening, it’s active, engaged, participation that demonstrates listening.

The boss should ask…

  1. What changes in people, process or policy should we make to better align our work with our strategy?
  2. What strengths and weaknesses do you see in what I’ve just shared with you?
  3. What has led to success for us in the past?
  4. What did we do before that didn’t work?

At the heart of much employee resistance to change is the sense that we’ve been down this road before, and it didn’t work. Managers many times dismiss these concerns — “It’ll be different this time. Trust me!” That leads to the “same ol’, same ol’, flavor of the month” problem that gets in the way. Hitting these issues head-on fosters discussion and builds trust.

Create the desired environment

At the same time, we can’t expect our leadership to be the only ones communicating effectively. Everyone needs to commit to creating the workplace we want.

Let’s go back to the meeting above. What would have happened if you’d raised your hand when the boss asked for questions and asked:

  1. Could you paint a picture for us about what success looks like? Here’s how I see it from here.
  2. A question about the second issue you raised — what effect do you see it having on our team?
  3. Could you clarify a bit on the plan for making this happen? How do you see our part in that plan?
  4. What would we need to do differently to make this work?

Might have had a different vibe. Might have started a discussion.

Better communication starts with all of us. Learn how our Face2Face Communication program can help your organization create an environment rich in dialogue, discussion and engagement!