There are critical questions that associations need to be discussing. We’ve started this conversation, and will continue it. But, before we get to far down the question asking path, I want to be clear that simply asking questions won’t make change.
Questions can open doors to new ideas, new opportunities, fresh thinking.
But, simply posing questions doesn’t bring people along. Simply asking questions doesn’t inspire people to bring their best ideas and thinking. Simply asking questions doesn’t generate the discussions that inspire new opportunities.
If you want people to engage in the big question discussions, they need to trust you. They need to believe that you care about their opinion, that investing their energy and thinking will be appreciated. They need to believe that what they say matters.
How you respond to people’s perspectives, their ideas, their questions, this is how trust is built.
If you ask “what worked?” then refute or belittle each point raised or pull out your phone and check email as people respond, you are sending a message “what you say doesn’t matter.”
If you ask “what should we do differently?” and no changes are made or people are discouraged from altering how they do their work, you are sending the message that we don’t intend to change, this is just an exercise to check a box or make it appear like the team was engaged.
If a team member asks a question and no one responds or people roll their eyes or sigh you are sending a message that we don’t appreciate your questions and your perspectives.
You don’t have to like every idea or perspective. But, to build trust and ultimately engagement, you do need to appreciate that everyone has a perspective and they should have an opportunity to share it.
If you want people to engage in the big questions discussions – to explore how your organization might generate new value, how you might develop new opportunities, how you… – you need to pay attention to the insights people share, the questions they ask and be willing to make change.
You need to show that questions are an opportunity, not a burden. If you ask questions from this perspective, if you listen, if you engage people you can create a space where people feel it is safe to ask questions, where it is worth the effort to share their perspectives and it is a valuable experience to explore with you.
Go ahead and ask, just be prepared to listen and engage when you do!