Asking good questions is one of the things going into the Facilitation Anywhere ‘kit’. Participants on the course in January brought particular issues or situations they wanted to practice facilitating. They helped each other clarify the question they wanted to explore, and in the process got beneath the surface of the issue. After this they chose a method to have the conversation and away they went.
When we really care about the issue in front of us, we often just launch into it. That’s fine. But the risk is we get bogged down in the problem, get anxious about getting things done and jump to (the wrong) solutions.
What could be different?
Something different happens if we pause and ask, what’s the issue here, in a nutshell? What’s the question we want to explore? What might be different when this is resolved? Asking questions that invite people’s reflections in a spirit of enquiry has a way of opening up our thinking, generating ideas and building connections.
Questions are there in everything we do as facilitators and getting to the right question is core skill – from understanding the context and clarifying intent through to reflecting on key learnings. In her fantastic resource, Questions That Work, Dorothy Strachan offers six guiding principles for creating and asking questions:
- Customize for context
- Create inviting questions
- Ask with sensitivity
- Accommodate risk
- Prepare participants for tough questions
- Ask follow up questions
Facilitation Anywhere participants brought their skills and something more. With their own and our questions, they brought listening, curiosity, interest, openness and trust. The group created together a space that made something possible.
Words create worlds
If ‘we live in the worlds our questions create’, as David Cooperider and the other creators of Appreciative Inquiry believe, then the kind of questions we ask matters. ‘… The practice of asking positive questions not only brings the best out of people and organisations, it also amplifies and magnifies the most positive life-giving possibilities for the future’(1).
What’s your question today?
(1) Encyclopaedia of Positive Questions, Using Appreciative Inquiry to Bring out the Best in Your Organization, 2002, Whitney, D et al