I Don’t Need to Have the Answers

… as long as I have the right questions.

That’s one of my most important tasks as a facilitator: to carefully select the “right” questions. These are thoughtful questions that engage all participants in purposeful discussion leading to outcomes such as resolving a problem, getting everyone on the same page, setting strategic priorities, identifying resources and next steps, etc.

“Most facilitators spend considerable time looking for and thinking about a question for a particular situation with a particular group of people.” Dorothy Strachan, facilitator and author of Making Questions Work. 

That’s why I put much effort and energy into building a toolkit of engaging and focused questions – collecting them, adapting them, and coming up with new ones. It’s one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of my work.

My clients are smart 

I learned that the groups I work with have the answers – they just don’t know it. My role is to come up with the best questions and guide the process that enables clients to uncover the answers they need to get unstuck and move forward.

Sounds simple, but it’s not. I feel a tremendous amount of pressure to come up with the most appropriate questions for each group. Given the answers are unknown until participants ponder the questions, their answers cannot be presumed or predicted in advance. So the stakes are incredibly high in choosing the right questions and creating a psychologically safe space in which to pose questions that:

  • frame the issue(s)
  • provoke thought
  • provide focus and clarity
  • prompt creative thinking
  • foster idea-exchange and development
  • encourage the sharing of relevant experiences that help people learn from each other.

Coming together to address carefully chosen engaging questions, reflecting on them, building on one another’s responses, and reaching resolution is most important for the participants … and most satisfying  for the facilitator.

“I asked, ‘What would you like me to do when you feel stuck?’
She said, ‘Do what you do best. Ask questions. Help me find an answer.'” Peter Drucker

[Image credit: Pete Linforth from Pixabay]

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