The quiet ones are the listeners, observers, thinkers, and doubters. They are important to your team. Learn how to encourage team members who don't speak up with the questioning funnel, 90/10 rule, and QAC.
- In the previous section, we talked about being a good listener rather than talking about yourself and being genuinely interested in the others in your team. And now I want to take that idea a step further and look at how you can encourage other people to talk. Some people, like me, don't need much encouragement to talk, but others are more introverted and need it to be pulled out of them a bit. Often these quiet people are the listeners, the observers, the thinkers. They're the people who might spot the one vital flaw in your plan, so they can be the most important ones to find out about.
A good team player will identify them and make sure that they're encouraged to make their valuable but reluctant contributions. I used to work in a manufacturing company with a friend called Clive, and he was very, very clever, but in meetings he tended to say nothing at all, so the boss would be talking about some big problem, and everybody would be saying, "We don't know what to do," and afterwards, after the meeting, Clive would say to me, "Of course, Chris, what they should have done "was x, y, and z," and I would say, "Well why didn't you say that in the meeting?" He'd say, "Well I wasn't really sure, and I, "you know, I didn't want to say anything." So I developed a little strategy, and when we were in the meetings together, and the boss was saying we've got this problem, I would say, "Clive, what do you think?" And Clive would say, "Oh, well, "I think maybe we could try this." And everybody would say, "That's brilliant.
"Yeah, let's do that." So every meeting, all I would do really, was say, "Clive, what do you think?" And I would just kind of drop him in it, and I think, to start with, he didn't like me doing it, but it worked really well, and he built up quite a reputation for being a clever guy, who knew the answers, and I was just really his facilitator. Since then, he's gone on to be a really senior, successful manager there, and it was all thanks to me. So sometimes being a team player is just encouraging somebody else to talk.
It doesn't have to be difficult at all. Now a great way to get people to talk is to use the questioning funnel. And this is a technique, where you start with open questions which are things like, "What's happening in your area "at the moment?" or "What do you think of the plan?" And then you finish with closed questions like, "Do you think we should go ahead or not?" Closed questions have a yes or no answer. But the key part of the questioning funnel is what happens in the middle, which is where you ask probing questions.
These are where you actually find out all the useful information. They have the format, "tell me more about that" or "and then what happened" or "how do you mean exactly?" A friend of mine has a great probing question he likes to use, which is "talk me through it." If someone says they don't like their boss, for example, he'll say, "Oh really. Talk me through it," and then he just sits back and listens, finding out all about the other person's situation. The thing about probing questions is that there's an element of improvisation because you never know what the other person's going to say.
When you ask them why they don't like their boss, who knows what they will say, but the good thing is that whatever they say, you can use one of your standard probing questions to explore further. So the key is to get good at using probing questions, and once you've exhausted a particular line of questioning, a particular funnel, you can then start a new one by summing up like this, "Well that all sounds like a bit of "a nightmare with your horrible boss and everything, "but tell me, how's your home life?" Or another example you might say, "I never realized golf was so interesting.
"That sounds really great, and are you doing any other "things in your spare time?" With this funnel process, you have complete control over where the conversation goes. In fact, you don't have to go into a funnel at all if you don't want to. If you ask what they do in their spare time, and they say, "golf," and let's say you're not interested in golf at all, instead of asking for more details with, "Oh that's interesting. Tell me more about it," you can say, "Oh that's interesting, and as well as golf, "do you do any other sports?" You don't have to go into the golf funnel unless you want to.
Now just a final thought about this questioning process, if you're not careful, it can feel a bit like an inquisition where all you do is ask them things, and you never reveal anything about yourself, so ideally it wouldn't be just question, answer, question, answer, question, answer, but what you would do is, you'd put some comments in there as well, so it would be question, answer, comment, question, answer, comment. I'll give you an example. After you've asked what they do in their spare time, and they say golf, you would put in a little comment to show that you've listened and understood, and to show that you're interested in their answer like, "Really? Quite a few of my friends are really into golf, "but I never got around to trying it, so where do you play?" And off they go with their next answer.
If they say that they play at the Parley Manna Club, you can say, "Oh yes, I've seen that. "It's on the way to the airport, isn't it? "What's it like to play there?" And off they go again. Question, answer comment. The comments are only very short, but they do show that you're listening. In fact, they force you to listen, which is good for you. Otherwise, you would probably tend to plan your next question halfway through their previous statement, and then you're not listening properly to all of what they're saying, but the best thing about these little comments is that they give the feeling that it's a conversation and not an interrogation, although really, it is an interrogation.
So ideally, you will only be talking ten percent of the time, and they'll be talking for 90 percent. It only takes ten percent for you to make a brief comment and then ask the next question, and then off they go again. So I'd like you to practice the funnel when you've finished viewing this part of the course. Practice the probing questions, and practice the little comment after their answer and before the next question. It's a great habit to get into.
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- Getting the job done
- Dividing up the work
- Cultivating communication
- Handling conflict
- Delivering reliably
- Playing more than one role
- Using your strengths and dealing with your weaknesses