Part 5 of 5 on the Power of Asking Questions
by Bernice Moore-Valdez
If teams learn more effectively, they can get more done, and they make better decisions. These are some questions to ask yourself. Here are 3 tips to help the team maximize what they learn:
- • Pay attention inside
• Pay attention outside
• Take action
Tip #1: Pay attention to what is going on inside you
Paying attention inside is listening to your own thinking; are you tracking what’s being said, are you resisting, opposing? Paying attention to your inner discourse is useful to help you be present. Your presence helps others be more awake and attentive.
- • Where is your mind?Are you wandering outside in the sunshine, thinking about your shopping list, wishing you were back at your office? If you catch yourself drifting, bring yourself back to the room and to what’s going on right where you are.
• Notice your emotions. Emotions help us connect with others, and if we are aware of your emotions, it helps us relate and connect. Understand why you have an emotion: knowing when and why you feel anxiety, pressure, pain, or light-heartedness can help you be more present with yourself and others.
• Know and identify your triggers and reactions. When you know your triggers and don’t act on them you have a bit of wisdom. Knowing and speaking about triggers and reactions honestly and openly without attacking anyone takes real skill. When you are triggered, being able to identify it is half the battle.
• Understand what you want to say and why. If you have something to say, want to say something, or can ask a question to help the group learn, is something holding you back? Helping ourselves be in the flow of conversation enables us to contribute in ways that are helpful and needed.
Tip #2. Pay attention to what’s going on outside and around you
When you notice what is going on, it helps you and others have more opportunities to engage and support the group to maximize their learning. When the team is learning and interacting better, they make better decisions and create better results.
- • Attend to what the group is saying and talking about. Notice if the group is talking about the topic they are supposed to be talking about or not. If the group is off-topic, sometimes it is helpful to lead them to get back on track. Other times it may be a worthwhile conversation. Discerning the difference is useful to the whole group.
- • Pay attention to how the energy of the group is moving. Is there a “stuckness” in the group’s conversation? “Stuckness” means a repeated pattern that takes over and limits the openness and flow of conversation.If the group is going around and around a topic, it helps to notice and name it for the group, and this can help break the repetitive pattern. If people are stuck, you can help to guide the group back on track.
- • Are one or two people talking rapidly; are some people turned off and not talking? If only a few people are talking, you can help include more people in the conversation. Sometimes a silent person has a great deal to contribute and is struggling to make an entry.
Tip #3. Take action that supports the team’s learning.
It is helpful to make the best move you can to help the group and yourself. Here are some different kinds of moves & examples:
• Suspend, which means to hang something out there, for the group to look at
- • tell the group what you’re thinking or feeling
• if you are reacting and it feels right to tell the group, do so
• if you see a stuck pattern, name it to help the group see how stuck they are. When the group can identify when they get stuck, this helps groups work with collective patterns of stuckness and limit constraints on team effectiveness
• Ask questions to deepen the group’s learning and improve their collective thinking. Ask about assumptions, data, barriers, and success factors. Explore themes and agreements and identify disagreements.-What are the group’s assumptions? If you help a group or team notice assumptions, usually it will have a big payoff in increased understanding and coherence
- • Is someone out on a limb without any data to support them? Helping the group clarify the data that they are working with and that they agree on will ground the group in something real
• Explore barriers by asking, “What could get in our way?”
• Identify some success factors by asking, “What do we need to do to ensure we are successful?
• Notice themes and help the group reflect on what they’re talking about and learning.
• Clarify themes and agreements to the team will be more successful
Jack Mezirow, the father of transformative learning, said that without reflection there is no learning. Without learning, we just repeat the same mistakes over and over—isn’t that a definition of insanity?