But when it comes down to it, interactions with leaders are what make or break an employee’s connection with the organization. Every time you are in front of an employee, whether one-on-one or in a group, you have an opportunity to increase that engagement through dialogue.
One sure way to start the conversation is with an open-ended question. Unlike questions that give people limited options for response, open-ended questions encourage them to express their opinions and ideas. When you listen to what they have to say, showing interest and respect for their input, it shows you care and the impact can be significant.
Recently, I was coaching a leader on strategic presentation skills. He had the tendency to keep talking without stopping and needed some work to better connect with the people in the room. We talked about the importance of pausing during the presentation and asking a question to engage the audience.
During our coaching session, when he first paused for emphasis, I was happy he had listened to my recommendation. But then he counteracted the positive effect by asking, “Does anyone have any questions?” That’s like saying, “does anyone want to loan me $5,000?” It was great for him to pause, but asking a closed-ended question basically shut people down rather than opening them up.
On the other hand, you can open the conversation and create an energizing dialogue if you use a few common open-ended questions.
Try these common open-ended questions:
- Help me with your reaction to what I just said.
- Give me some feedback on the choices I just presented.
- What are your thoughts?
- Would you tell me more about ___?
- Can you help me understand that a little better?
- How does that process work now?
- How do you see this happening?
- What kind of challenges are you facing?
- What’s the most important priority to you with this? Why?
- What other issues are important to you?
- What is it that you’d like to see accomplished?
What opportunities do see in the coming weeks to open the conversation and engage employees?
This is a great technique that applies to many communications opportunities. Think of this when in an interview or one on one discussion in sales or looking for an opportunity. You cannot be a “solution provider” if you are not sure of what their situation is.
~David and Melanie