At the start of a recent conference call for an upcoming strategy planning project, it was clear I was expected to facilitate the discussion. That was my suspicion coming in, but with other responsibilities, there wasn’t a chance to prepare as much as I typically would. So after a brief introduction, all eyes and ears turned to me to start talking – gulp.

Here’s Your ChallengeWhat do you do when you’re not ready to speak or don’t know what to say?

Mark Twain said, “It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.” How about a middle ground? Next time you’re in a similar situation, think for a moment, open your mouth, and ASK a great question.

Doing this provides three clear, immediate strategic benefits:

  • You shift the focus from your lack of preparation and give the floor back to the other participants.
  • The other people feel better because they’re able to provide input.
  • By actively listening, you can pick out cues from their comments that can shape your next move – to talk, to change course, or to ask another question.

The strategic key is asking the right type of question.

Be ready by developing a quick list of 8 to 10 questions that you can rely upon with ease. Here are a few to get you started (along with when to use them):

  • Can you elaborate? (If someone has provided information, but you’re not clear what it means.)
  • How have you approached this before? (If people have previous experience they could share.)
  • What are your initial thoughts for how to approach it? (When participants have pre-conceived notions about what to do.)
  • Can you tell me more? (When someone has a wealth of information that hasn’t been shared yet.)
  • What’s most important for you to accomplish? (To understand the other parties’ motivations – and what matters in this situation.)

In this example, I chose the last question, allowing participants an opportunity to share their individual and collective objectives for the upcoming planning session. Their initial comments set up a follow-up question (What percent of the plan should be devoted to each of the 3 sections you’ve mentioned?), creating the opportunity to start capturing topic areas. A productive meeting was thus snatched from the jaws of unpreparedness with two great, simple questions.

So what questions will you be better prepared to ask next time this happens to you? – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

No Responses to “Ask and You Shall Receive with Great Strategic Questions”

  1. I liked this. Very true. Just wanted to said that the very wise quote has been attributed to Abraham Linciln and even to the Bible. anyway I always bear that in mind. 

    Strategy designing process is definitively about asking questions. 


  1. Getting Ready for This! | Strategy Consulting and Strategic Planning - August 13, 2010

    […] facts change and information deteriorates, it’s vital to be able to know how to seek and vet potential answers since no one can be expected to have a full command of all available […]

  2. Tweets that mention Ask and You Shall Receive with Great Strategic Questions | Strategy Consulting and Strategic Planning -- Topsy.com - November 13, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Chuck Frey, Mike Brown. Mike Brown said: Ask and You Shall Receive with Great Strategic Questions http://bit.ly/90YvGW #interviewing #facilitating […]

  3. 11 Rhetorical Questions You May Want to Answer | The Brainzooming Group | Strategy Consulting and Strategic Planning - January 27, 2011

    […] what’s getting tweeted every day. One way of dealing with all the grayness of January is to ask questions, so here are eleven questions. They’re mainly rhetorical questions, but if you feel compelled […]

  4. Pricing Negotiation Strategy Lessons from "Pawn Stars" | The Brainzooming Group | Strategy Consulting and Strategic Planning - July 7, 2011

    […] the person wants to do (pawn or sell), and what the individual wants to get for the merchandise. Asking the first question puts Rick Harrison in control of pricing negotiations and sustains the information gathering. […]

  5. The Process of Strategy Planning - Managing for Change without the Boss Dominating | The Brainzooming Group | Strategy Consulting and Strategic Planning - April 30, 2012

    […] different strategy questions than the organization typically asks so employees won’t know as readily what answers to expect […]

  6. Great Strategic Questions – A 3-Step Strategic Question Formula | The Brainzooming Group | Strategy Consulting and Strategic Planning - June 7, 2012

    […] you making sure the strategic questions you use are “open, neutral, and […]

  7. Seeking a Mutually Beneficial Outcome - Are We Really this Far Apart? | The Brainzooming Group | Strategy Consulting and Strategic Planning - July 18, 2012

    […] an important conversation with someone recently. This other person and I usually agree on the desired end result in situations, even if we have different ways of getting to the same […]