DRAMA@WORK: TEAMS

The question that's like a compass

 

A couple of years ago, I ran a mini workshop for a property development company in Kuala Lumpur so that they could find out how they each worked at their best. I was introducing a methodology called Clean Language for which I’m a specialist in. It was a one-hour lunch workshop for their Toastmasters Club so I needed to ensure brevity and impact.

 


One of the best ways to do that is, for me, to ask attendees:
“What would you like to know before we begin?”

 


I didn’t have to say more when the company’s general manager asked cheekily, “Can I use this to swear cleanly?” Earlier, he had spoken about his propensity for swearing.  

 

The room chortled. So did I. I repeated his question, and put that up on the flipchart. And to engage the others, I said a little bit more. “You’re all sitting here. I don’t know you. I don’t know what you like or how you learn or what you want to do. So, I’ve got some experience and I’ve got you. What would the rest of you like to know before we begin?”

 

“And rather than spend time doing a back and forth, if you could just speak up, and I’ll repeat what you say and write it up on the flipchart. What is it you want to know about me or about the process in order that this is a really useful hour of your time?”

 

These were their questions:

 

“Are you Chinese?”
 

“Will we have toilet breaks?”
 

“What is Clean Language?”
 

“Will we learn anything from this one hour?”
 

“Can I use Clean Language in a sales pitch?”
 

“Can I use it to change my relationship with my wife/colleague?”
 

“Should we teach Clean Language to our kids?”
 

“Can I use it to impress someone in three minutes?”
 

“Can I use it to manage conflict?”
 

“Can I use it in daily conversations?”

 


What happened next

 


Asking that one question helped me to understand where their attention was.

 

I looked at their questions and decided which ones I would answer right away and which ones I wouldn’t.

 

I decided I would answer the question about my identity first: “I’m Malaysian. My mother is Teo Chew and my father is Eurasian.”

 

The general manager, who looked Eurasian, immediately spoke up. “Oh, we may be related!”

 

“You may be right,” I said to him. “My father loves to swear as well!” That got the whole room laughing, and I could tell I was building rapport. Next, I invited the attendees to take charge of their learning states – if they needed a toilet break, it was OK if they took it.

 

I then grouped the following questions,

 

“Will we learn anything from this one hour?”
 

“Can I use it to change my relationship with my wife/colleague?”
 

“Should we teach Clean Language to our kids?”
 

“Can I use it to impress someone in three minutes?” and said,

 


“I don’t know. Would you like to experience
Clean Language and find out?” I saw nods.

 


And then, I grouped the other questions,

 

“Can I use this to swear cleanly?”
 

“Can I use Clean Language in a sales pitch?”
 

“Can I use it to manage conflict?”
 

“Can I use it in daily conversations?” and said,

 

“Would it be OK if we parked these questions first? If by the end of the hour, you still don’t have an answer, please ask me your question again. Would that be OK?” Again, there was agreement.

 

I then carried on by answering “What is Clean Language?”, and then gave the attendees some exercises to experience it.

 


Finding their own answers

 


At the end of the presentation, I returned to the flipchart. I spoke to the people whose questions I had not answered earlier:

 

“And did you learn anything?”
 

“Would you teach this to your kids?”
 

“How could you use this in a sales pitch? Or to manage conflict?”

 


Everyone who had asked a question could
answer their question without my giving them one.

 


After the presentation, I was told the Toastmasters Club had not had such a “noisy” lunch event before, because of the high level of participation and engagement this time round.

 

I reckon, none of that could have happened, if I hadn’t started with, “And what would you like to know before we begin?”

 


That question was like a compass for me as facilitator.


It also allowed me to build rapport with the attendees. The attendees’ questions also kept them curious and engaged about learning Clean Language. And at the end of the session, they had not only learned a new communication tool. They had also learned that they could discover their own answers and deepen their understanding about each other by being Clean.

 

By asking “What would you like to know before we begin?”, I got everyone to be responsible for what they needed during the workshop and to ask for it. Once that was out in the open, it made it so much easier for all of us to work together so that everyone got what they needed, without any disagreements, disappointments or misunderstanding.

 

And that is why, this is a good way to begin before you actually begin a presentation.

© 2020 by BeInClarity