A Leadership Problem: More than 75% of people make decisions before they thoroughly understand the issue that needs to be addressed!
Leadership & Strategic Thinking —- The Power of Clarifying Questions!
George, the executive in charge of R&D for a leading consumer products company, was recently presenting an update to the senior leadership team on the progress in the development of a unique new product. He quickly became frustrated by the questions he was being asked. How so?
He was only on the first page of a 6-page presentation; and, he was already 45 minutes into his 1 hour time slot. What was happening here? People were asking the wrong questions first. The executives were jumping into content questions before they had asked clarifying questions. Content questions were framed as such: “Why? Have you reached out to …?” and “Did you consider?” Can you imagine how frustrated George was, or what opportunity could have been missed?
We have an important tool we always employ when we are facilitating a strategy planning session. It seems so obvious, but I don’t see it used in practice very often. The simple request to ask for clarifying questions before content questions. It is not easy to do at first, but it is a behavior that can be learned by all. The trick is to be able to draw the distinction between the two. A clarifying question begins with — “What do you mean by this?,” “Can you clarify something for me?” etc…
We have found that clarifying questions asked early and throughout a presentation can often address content questions in a better way. One thing to keep in mind — people will only follow this rule if they know they will have a chance to weigh in at a point in time. That can be either at a natural break in the presentation or at the conclusion of a short one. Also, try using a Parking Lot Chart to collect content questions asked along the way. This will help ensure people know you are going to address the important content questions at an appropriate point in time.
Source: GlobalEdg Research 2014