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Keep the group’s conversation ‘focused’

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in Leaders & Managers,Office Management,Workplace Communication

When you want to gather the wisdom of the group, says Brian Stanfield, don’t just say, “What do you think?” Rather, hold a “focused conversation.”

Focused conversation pushes people to be creative, not critical, says the author of The Art of Focused Conversation. For example, if you want to evaluate a new business form’s design and effectiveness, gather a few people and hold a focused conversation that goes like this:

1. Open the conversation. “I’ve heard some strong reactions, pro and con, to this new business form I created. I thought it might be useful to hold a conversation where we could share our opinions about the advantages or disadvantages of it.”

2. Ask objective questions to establish the facts. “What is the first thing you notice on this form?”

3. Ask reflective questions to uncover personal reactions to the form. “What do you like or dislike about it?”

4. Ask interpretive questions to dig deeper for insights. “How does it compare to the previous form? How will it make a difference in the way we do business?”

5. Ask decisional questions to figure out the next steps. “What can we do to make sure this form is used properly?”

6. End the conversation. “Thanks for your thoughts. I’d be interested to hear any additional reflections you have on the form as we continue to use it.”

Or, if the conversation reveals that the form needs major improvements, say, “Well, I can see we have some serious reservations about using this form. I will take your input and completely rework it.”

You’ll notice this conversation isn’t about one-word answers. “Questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no, or a single right answer,” Stanfield says, “do not make for lively conversation.”

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