Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The art of asking questions

'The person who is doing the talking, is the one who is learning the most! ' It is an 'old wisdom' still applicable, when a training or facilitation event is conducted. According to research, people remember;
  • only a maximum of 10 - 15 %, when they received information through a presentation;
  • 40 - 50 %, when they have been discussing about a topic, which keep them engaged;
  • 70 - 75 %, when they have been practising with the new knowledge and skills;
  • 80 - 90 %, when they have been applying the new knowledge in their work.

People learn most, when they are actively involved and make the knowledge practical. However behavioural change in applying new knowledge, can only work when people have the right attitude; openess, willingness to change and motivation. The right conditions such as time to learn and experiment, support from management and colleagues and financial resources need to be in place to enable people to change. According to the brainlearning principles, it takes around 6 weeks to adapt new behaviour. This was some of the information, which was shared during the two-day training 'Basic facilitation methods & knowledge transfer' at the Hendrik Kreamer Institute (HKI) on the 23rd and 26th May, 2011. Participants from ZHHK and IccoenKerkinactie attended this course to enable them to improve their skills in guiding and empowering groups. The training, led by Simon Koolwijk, was composed of discussions, demonstration of basic methods and practicals including feedback.

Listening, summarizing and asking (LSA) are some of the key methods a facilitator is using in enabling a group to move forward. The facilitator is like a mirror. He bounches back questions all the time and helps you to discover new insights', commented one of the participants. 'LSA is a very useful tool!'. ' The basic conversation methods and the workshop methods (both ToP methods) are helpful tools in structurizing a discussion. I am going definitely going to apply them'. commented another participant.
Resistance and dealing with emotions are another interesting aspect of facilitation. 'What if you have participants in the meeting, who have been sent by their director but have not clearified their own motivations? ' or 'what to do when there is a hidden conflict in the group?' The pitfall of a facilitator is to persue his agenda. 'Facilitation is about being in the here and now!', comments Simon Koolwijk. 'If people show four of their basic emotions (fear, anger, joy or sadness), you start to ask in-depth questions and try to address and to identify what is most important for the group at that moment of time'. 'If the most important issues of today's reality are not dealt with and listened to, people will not have the motivation to listen and talk about the future directions of a group', shares Simon Koolwijk. 'Asking in-depth questions helps you to build understanding', says one of the participants. 'By getting to a deeper level, you take time to listen to opinions of others. It helps to create a joint group feeling'. 'Facilitation is not just doing a trick or applying a structured method. It is an art to ask the right questions at the right moment to enable the group to move forward!' Read more about asking the right questions in the Art of the Focused Conversation.

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