Asking Questions Others Want to Ask
An unfortunate reality in many teams is the fact that wise and experienced people often speak too little, while their less experienced and less expert counterparts speak too much. Getting those more reticent to make a vocal contribution can be a real challenge for leaders who desire for everyone to be heard. When everyone’s opinion is put on the table, teams make better decisions; therefore, conquering this challenge can have a profound impact on team effectiveness.
The best leaders do their best to make it safe for everyone to speak up and offer their views. They don’t allow team members or their ideas to be dismissed or ridiculed in any fashion. They turn conversations about mistakes into learning opportunities so that no one feels outed by admitting to an error. Despite good intentions and practices, socially shy team members may still find it difficult to offer their candid views. This is also common with inexperienced or less influential team members or those new to the team.
To confront this challenge, the best leaders take the conversation outside the meeting room. They will directly ask less expressive colleagues about the concerns, questions, and insights they have about the topics and issues at hand. Then, in the team meeting, the leader can present these questions as if they were their own.
Raising questions that others might ask is wiser than trying to make an argument on behalf of another team member. That approach can be fraught with danger. Did the leader authentically represent what the other person believes? Asking the questions others might ask is regarded as opening the conversation to more voices and comes with little risk.
Holding up the “minor” voice in any room or group is a fundamental virtue for the best leaders. By asking the questions others would like to ask but are reluctant to, leaders promote a deeper shared understanding and allow everyone’s thoughts to be expressed.
While it is never entirely known if the leader has made the correct assumption about what others would ask, the mere attempt to do so casts the leader as a facilitator of team dialogue, as opposed to a director of team activity. Asking questions, both yours and those of others is what good leaders do in a group process.
Was that what you were thinking?