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Ask the right questions: When?

We have talked about why, what (Part 1 and Part 2) and who when it comes to asking the right questions.  When should we ask the right questions? I don’t know about you but sometimes I am overwhelmed by all the people who want my opinion and I am also guilty of wanting to send electronic surveys a little too frequently to my coalition.  So when does it make sense to ask the right questions? This week, we will consider 4 situations where it is a good time to ask the right questions of your team or coalition:

  1. Considering change: If you are thinking it’s time for a change with your focus areas or your processes, it is likely a good time to ask questions of those who will be most impacted by these changes. Perhaps you would prefer to move a monthly Friday afternoon meeting to Thursday morning.  Before making this change, it is a good idea to ask those who are participating in these meetings. I have been leading a team for several years and for the first several years, they really wanted to meet on Friday afternoons. I would check in periodically (maybe once/year) and they kept saying Friday afternoons were best.  More recently, I asked and actually discovered that Thursday mornings are now best. Perhaps it’s because our team has grown and there are new members not interested in Friday afternoons or maybe things have changed for others’ schedules. It’s also a good time to ask your partners or coalition members if you decide to start (or end) a workgroup or committee or perhaps you want to start implementing a new multi-component strategy that will require involvement from several different organizations.  
  2. Setting priorities. Another good time to ask your coalition for input is when you are setting priorities. This is particularly true if you would like them to be part of implementing them. You may have all kinds of data and evidence to support your ideas as priorities; however, if you don’t have interested partners, it will often be difficult to fully implement as desired. This doesn’t have to be complicated – and next week we will talk more about “how” – but it can be really helpful to support ownership in your collective efforts when you ask your members to provide feedback on potential priorities.
  3. Experiencing a lack of participation. One of the reasons, I asked about a change for our team meetings from Fridays to another day (actually gave options for any day in the week) was because we were experiencing a lack of participation. I realized that perhaps something was happening that prevented participation and it was time to ask again. This can happen related to a lot of different situations. Perhaps you had several key leaders step down from leadership or maybe you had several volunteers unable to follow-through with their responsibilities who usually are able complete their work in a timely way. This may happen if you are facilitating a meeting and you have blank stares and silence when you open things up for questions.
  4. Reducing (or increasing) resources. Unfortunately, especially when working with nonprofits, there is a reduction of resources. You may not always have options related to how you manage those changes, but if you do, it’s a good idea to ask your partners, particularly leadership for their input. When asking these questions, you may actually find that they have resources that can be leveraged for a shared project or they may even have ideas on ways to find additional support from other sources. You may want to create some “scenarios” or options and then get feedback from others on what might work best. Your partners can also help in “re-setting” priorities if needed. If you have less funding, you need to really consider what you are able to do and do well. The whole “do more with less” concept is not realistic. We all have only so much time and capacity and need to honor one another by recognizing that and making adjustments. Alternatively, perhaps you have had the opportunity for increased resources. This is another good time to garner input from your coalition, particularly leadership!

So what about you?  When have you found it to be a “good time” to ask for input from your team or coalition?

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Photo by Tyler Harris on Unsplash

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