Checking you're getting through
Research has shown that unless you do something clever to change it, after a month people only remember 18 per cent of everything you’ve told them, the rest they've forgotten. The thing is which 18 per cent do they remember? You won’t know if you don't ask them.
CHECK FOR UNDERSTANDING
Employee engagement starts with getting people to understand what the organisation is trying to achieve and their role in achieving it. So you must check your messages are getting through. Otherwise, you might have been wasting a whole lot of time. If you are asked to brief the team, make sure everyone understands each message before you move on. If you don't, they’ll sit there thinking about your first point while you're on your way to making your third.
USE QUESTIONS TO BUILD ENGAGEMENT
Ask questions of people to increase involvement, particularly among quieter or apparently disinterested team members. Your questions might focus on helping people make logical links and reach the conclusion you want them to. Or you can use questions to improve the understanding of key messages.
DON’T JUST ASK THE CLEVER PERSON
If you want to find out if your people really got it, don't just ask the clever member of your team. For sure you'll get the right answer and that lovely warm feeling that goes with thinking you've done a great job. But you're only kidding yourself. You need to ask others too – after all they are the ones that talk to your customers, internal or otherwise.
THE THREE Ps
A useful technique to remember is pose, pause and pounce. Pose the question. Pause to create a sense of anticipation. Then pounce, naming the person you want to answer your question, preferably without looking at him or her first, because that would give the game away. And try to spread your questions randomly among your team. This technique ensures everyone remains engaged, because they don't know who is going to be asked next.
DEALING WITH ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS
When dealing with the answers to your questions, take your time, repeat or paraphrase the answer if necessary, build on the person's words and indicate the degree of correctness. If they're right congratulate them. If they're wrong seek input from others and reiterate the key points.
Some people are happy to give an off the cuff response to a question. Others like to reflect before answering. So use that to your advantage. Follow up the “reflectors” a few days later. Their thoughts are usually well considered and worth seeking out.
EXPLAIN HOW YOU’LL FIELD QUESTIONS
In briefings let your colleagues know at the outset how and when you will deal with their questions. You might want to take questions as you go to create a more informal and discursive atmosphere. Or you might prefer to set time aside for questions at the end, which should help you make sure you get your key points across first and have more overall control of the briefing.
LOOK LIKE YOU'RE LISTENING
If you want to stimulate debate and really engage your team, you had better look like you are listening to the questions you're being asked. Remember your body language. Look interested, nod or lean forwards, take notes. It might be the umpteenth time you've had that question today, but it has to look like it was the first.
DEALING WITH STONY-FACED SILENCE
You'll probably know what it's like to finish a briefing and ask if anyone has any questions, only to be met with total silence except for the echo of your own voice. Of course your briefing could have been perfect and addressed every query anyone might have had. More likely, you've just asked a stupid question yourself. The main reason people don't ask questions at the end of a briefing or meeting is because they don't want to look stupid. So instead of asking for questions, ask for or comments or observations – what people found that was positive, or negative, or just plain interesting. These comments will often come out as questions, and it kick starts the dialogue.
DEALING WITH STONY-FACED SILENCE II
It's still very tempting to slip into saying: “Does anyone have any questions?” especially if you've been doing it as a matter of course after briefings for years. If you do end up doing that and are met with that dreaded silence, try saying: “Well OK then, if you did have any questions, what would they be?” It is amazing, after a few embarrassed laughs, how often that will be enough to kick start the dialogue.
DEALING WITH STONY-FACED SILENCE III
If all else fails and no-one asks questions or makes comments, you ask the questions to get things going – ask someone what one key message they'll take away from what you've said or ask someone how they think what you've said will change things for them.