By Brittany Schrenker, Solutions Analyst
You are working through a project meeting. You reach the end and ask if anyone has questions. Everyone around the table is quiet, they nod their heads no, and check their watches. It is tempting to make the mistake of wrapping up early to simply put time back on the calendar. Don’t. A strong project leader will make the effort to figure out why silence has prevailed, as it is often a good indicator that something is amiss.
There are many types of conversations that need to occur throughout the project lifecycle to ensure it is on track for success. You should be providing context around why you’ve made the decisions you’ve made along the way.
In understanding the obstacles that prevent your team from being fully engaged, you are ensuring that every member of the team feels empowered to fully contribute to the effort. So why aren’t they asking questions?
The team does not understand the project
It is easy to get bogged down in the details of a project, and lose sight of the overall vision. And sometimes the high-level view obscures the steps needed to get there. Consider revisiting the goals, roadmap and process maps to remind everyone where the team is going. Weekly check-ins and status meetings can help everyone keep track of progress.
The right people are not at the table
Perhaps the team chosen at the project launch does not accurately reflect the direction that things have gone. Team members should clearly understand the role they play on the team and the value they are expected to contribute. Be strategic about who is being invited to meetings, and always align attendees with the agenda.
People do not feel comfortable asking questions
Asking questions should not be viewed as confrontational behavior or an admission of ignorance. Asking questions doesn’t mean that something is flawed, but that people are taking the time to understand where an idea is coming from. Create an environment where people feel comfortable, and understand the value, of questioning. Reassure the team that they bring unique perspectives to the table, and that they will often see things that others have missed.
People do not know what questions to ask
Meetings can introduce a lot of new ideas, and stretch people’s understanding of current processes. Team members may lack the confidence to question unfamiliar concepts. Remind the team that who, what, where, when, or how questions always apply. These will most likely spark further discussion and potentially uncover issues that had not previously been considered.
Ensure that questions receive thoughtful answers
In the past, team members’ questions have been shot down, talked over or given a one word answer. Avoid answering with simply yes or no, and encourage others to do the same. Respond with context, avoid canned answers, and if you cannot answer a question say as much. Offer to follow up on questions that need further information, and do so as soon as possible. Let the team know that their questions matter, and that you take them seriously.
You never want to risk losing engagement, so always be aware of the environment you create for your team. Good questioning gets at the heart of matters that might go unnoticed. And of course, you know what they say about assuming. Don’t assume anything. Don’t assume people understand, don’t assume you understand, ask people to explain things back to you.
Questions may take a little more time out of your day, but the positive returns to your project and people are limitless.
Need help with your IT, HR or Technology project? We’ve been consulting with empathy for eleven years and know what you’re going through. We assure you, we will ask a lot of questions. Shoot John Huckle, Founder & CEO an email for a conversation today – firstname.lastname@example.org.