When you're in a group discussion--or leading it--and you see the energy begin to drop, ask a question.
A good question can breathe life into a team in a way that advice never can. First, recap the key points you've heard , then ask an open-ended question that leads the discussion on in a positive way.
Open-ended questions are something we all know about. When things get "stuck" or heated, the human condition stops problem-solving and starts digging in. Open-ended questions put everyone back into creative mode and move things away from turf issues or boredom. Remember: Questions activate the mind; statements promote mental passivity.
A helpful way to guide a team discussion is to phrase things in a manner that assumes something will happen. (We love the possibility action and results!). By subtly highlighting the words that indicate what you want to happen, you can lead your team toward an agreement. Try these for starters:
- "What ideas do you have on how we can handle this issue?"
- "After we discuss this completely, we can contact the VP of Marketing to let her know what we intend to do."
- "Before we decide on the solution, let's compare what we've heard today and see if we have a common theme."
- "How easy will it be for us to finish this by next month?"
Build consensus by valuing everyone's comments. Your actions will create the model for how team members will operate together, with or without the leader present.
What do you do to lead and promote effective discussion? It's a challenge we're all faced with regularly.
Note: I've been away for the past ten days and out of digital contact much of the time. We arrived home to the obligatory "you've been away" burst water pipe. Now that we've cleared the Mallards and Striped Bass out of the basement, I'll begin taking time today to respond to the many comments on the blog as well as emails from our newsletter. Thanks for your patience.--Steve