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Ask the right questions: Who?

By now, you have figured out why you want to ask the right questions as well as what questions to ask (Part 1 and Part 2).  The next thing to consider is who you ask.  Since we all have limited resources, we cannot ask everyone these questions all of the time. Also, if you keep asking these questions to the same people all of the time, folks may begin to avoid your phone calls and emails because they don’t have time to keep responding. 🙂  Who you ask depends upon the situation and what you plan to do with the information.

This week, we will highlight 3 different types of people or groups you will want to ask depending upon what you are going to do with what you learn.

  1. Paid staff or volunteers. You can ask these folks questions more than any other group and they are “paid” to answer you. 🙂 While they can still become fatigued, since they are paid to work on the team or coalition, they often have more time to devote to answering these questions and the answers have a very direct impact on them and their daily work. These colleagues usually have the most “inside” knowledge of the situation, and depending upon their relationship with you, they will be the most (or least) honest about their perspectives and recommendations.  I’ve found it’s particularly important to take care of those who you have hired to be part of your team and to ask them to provide their perspectives first, particularly if the decision will personally impact their daily roles and responsibilities. They can also be a helpful “sounding board” as you consider asking your board members or stakeholders for additional feedback. They can help you determine the timing and approach to asking others and can also help you organize or categorize the responses you receive from others.
  2. Board or coalition members. These folks are committed to your collective mission and their work usually complements the work of your coalition or team. Although they are committed to the collective effort, they are likely volunteers as members of your coalition and you will want to be mindful of how often and how many times you ask them questions and what types of questions you ask them. When it comes to decision-making and priority setting, you definitely want to garner their feedback and recommendations. These are often those who are leading or actively participating in your workgroups so you will want to know which ones they recommend (or not).  When it comes to daily decision-making and implementation details, you probably don’t want to ask them. However, depending upon the situation and expertise needed, you may want to ask specific members of your coalition or team for their perspective and recommendations.
  3. Partners or stakeholders. These are people who may participate peripherally and will often be the ones who utilize and share your coalition’s resources. They may be those who participate in a large-group “Summit” or “Conference” and thus you will want their feedback on areas that are important to them or that they will use. You will want them to let you know what worked well during your last Summit or webinar as well as what they recommend for a specific tool that they can use in their meetings with health professionals or consumers. While their feedback is still very important, you will ask these folks for their feedback much less often than you would ask your paid staff or your coalition members.  If they seem particularly interested in providing additional feedback or they are actively participating on your workgroup, it may be time to invite them to become members!

As we consider who we ask, it’s important to also continue to remember both why (POST) and what (POSTS). These questions continue to inform our “who”.  

So what about you, how do you decide “who” to ask for input or feedback related to your coalition or partnership?

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