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4 Types of Questions Every Facilitator Should Ask

Facilitating a meeting is not always an easy task. Sometimes one person dominates the airwaves and other times the conversation gets stalled by a wall of silence. Or, the conversation goes round and round without a clear way forward. However, you can leverage some great inquiry techniques to facilitate conversations and get impactful results.

In this post, we will cover four types of questions that you can use to enrich your next team conversation, whether you’re the facilitator or not.

Everyone Has the Potential to Be a Good Facilitator

Before we dive into the questions and meeting content, let’s review what makes a good facilitator. The goal of the facilitator is to move the meeting along to achieve the desired outcome. A good facilitator does not need to be a content expert. A good facilitator engages others in the conversation and manages the meeting process to move the conversation forward. Using questions is one tool that can sharpen your facilitation skills.

Getting Started With Four Types of Questions- ORID

The focused conversation method (also known as the ORID process) is widely used by facilitators in all types of settings, including team discussions, coaching conversations, leadership development, business analysis - any settings that require dialogue to leverage the wisdom of a group.

ORID is derived from the four levels of inquiry: Objective, Reflective, Interpretive, and Decisional.

As individuals, we go through all of these levels internally when making decisions. However, everyone places emphasis on a different stages of the process. For example, a data scientist might focus more on the objective data while project managers might emphasize more on the analysis that leads to decision-making.

The job of the facilitator is to guide the group through the entire process without solely focusing on one and jumping to conclusions without a full perspective.

Having a Framework in Mind is Your Secret Weapon for Facilitation

Among the many benefits of the ORID framework is that it provides facilitators a “checklist” to guide the discussion while addressing all of the different learning preferences of the participants. It is these four stages of questioning that give us the four types of questions facilitators need to use to move meetings forward and achieve the desired results.

Objective Questions Reveal Facts and Reality

Objective questions are used to draw out facts, data, and observable reality. The purpose of objective questioning is to ground participants which helps to later recognize that there may be different assumptions, interpretations, and perspectives involved in shaping reality.

Some Objective Questions you can use to set the context:

  • What is the history of the situation?

  • What facts do we know about the situation?

  • (When reviewing data or a presentation) What words, phrases, or pieces of data stand out?

  • What are the deliverables or what are we trying to achieve?

  • What resources do we have?

Reflective Questions Draw Connections

Reflective questions elicit our relationship to the data. They allow participants to explore feelings, emotions, and personal connections to a given situation. They also tend to surface our immediate response. Emotional data is often not acknowledged in the business setting; however, according to Laura Spencer, a thought leader in facilitation and the author of Winning through participation,

Emotions are important data. When taken into consideration in making a decision, they strengthen and support the decision. Ignored they usually jeopardize the decision.

Some Reflective Questions you can ask after the objective data has been explored:

  • What does this remind you of?

  • How does this make you feel?

  • What did you find new or refreshing?

  • What surprised or delighted you?

  • What feels most challenging or worries you?

Interpretative Questions Uncover Deeper Meanings

The “So what?” Interpretive questions help participants make sense of the situation by examining values, assumptions, significance, and implications. These questions prompt critical thinking and analysis.

Some Interpretive Questions you can pose to the team for reflection:

  • What have we learned so far?

  • What does this mean for us?

  • How might this affect our work?

  • What more do we need to know or further explore?

  • What insights have you unearthed?

  • If we got a chance to do it again, what would we do differently?

  • What are some of our strengths and weaknesses - how do they help or hinder us with this situation?

  • What are the issues underlying the current challenge?

  • What patterns did you see among similar events?

Decisional Questions Lead to Actions

Decisional questions pull together insights gained to generate options, determine priorities, examine potential benefits and consequences of actions or inaction, and make decisions. These questions allow the participants to express commitments to future actions and move forward.

Some Decisional Questions you can use to promote conclusion:

  • What do we need to start, stop, or continue doing?

  • How does this fit into our priorities??

  • What is relatively easy to do - what is the low hanging fruit?

  • What has to happen first, second, third?

  • What skills or resources are we missing- how will we acquire those?

  • What are the next steps - who will do what by when?

Putting the ORID Process into Action

The four types of questions can be applied in various types of meetings. You can also use them when you’re building the agenda to help structure the flow of conversation or as prework to get people thinking ahead of time. Using these four types of questions, facilitators are able to stay focused on the agenda, discern the collective wisdom of the group, and reach necessary conclusions.

What experiences have you had facilitating meetings using this or a similar process? Do you have questions about incorporating the ORID Process into your business meetings?

Enjoy this article?

Meeteor's new book, Momentum: Creating Effective, Engaging and Enjoyable Meetings, is now available on Amazon. Click here to get your copy today.


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