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You deliver a ‘whole-staff’ update. You ask for questions or feedback. Silence! No one responds. What’s next?

This was the brief I was given for a keynote I delivered last Friday on ‘Facilitating Effective Team Feedback’. My intention was to provide practical strategies that could be implemented immediately to empower real team conversations. 

Thinking about questions as an art form is a great place to start. Well-asked open questions have the potential to unleash amazing conversations.

Johnson leads a division of a large corporation, with a staff of around 60. New to the role and very keen, Johnson was determined to turn around the feedback that, “No-one tells us anything around here”. He instigated an all staff meeting that brought everyone together in a big room for 90 minutes.

After his MD’s update, Johnson asked, “Does anyone have any questions?” and then stood anxiously moving from one foot to the other. When there were no questions immediately, he closed the meeting with, “Right back to work then. Thanks for coming”.

Johnson expressed frustration to me after the meeting that no one was interested. Staff later complained that Johnson wasn’t genuine in wanting dialogue. Oh dear!

So what did he do wrong? Firstly he asked a closed question, “Does anyone have any questions?” A closed question has a yes or no answer, and doesn’t involve the brain in a creative search for questions.

Open questions—which require more than one word answers—are more effective in gaining feedback as they lead to more expansive thinking.

Johnson could have asked:

  • What questions do you have? 

Or if he was seeking more specific feedback:

  • What benefits do you see in XYZ strategy? 
  • What challenges do you see with XYZ strategy? 

Now you have the idea, you can create your own open questions to suit your circumstances.

Another way to befriend the question is to give people a short overview of your presentation and request questions in advance. This strategy is best used in conjunction with providing people the opportunity to ask questions in the moment.

A key strategy to empower real team conversations is to befriend the question.

How do you use questions to empower engagement? Leave your responses below.

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