April 5, 2009

I’ve talked about curiosity and asking why before. I’ve suggested you embrace your childhood curiosity, the folie du pourquoi.

And the value of questions bears repeating — so hear goes!

My colleague Tony Myers, CFRE, once said of me: “The hallmark of your messaging has always been about conversation. And you continue to center your communication and even your ‘rants’ on the need for conversation of all kinds, but particularly the contentious issues.”

Thanks, Tony. You get it. Ask essential and cage-rattling questions to stimulate conversation. Ask meaningful questions to engage staff and board members in deep dialogue about things that matter. Questions stimulate conversation, which produces learning, and then you can change.

Try these questions, generated by colleagues and myself when I was presenting at the AFP International Conference in New Orleans this week. By the way, “try these” means that you actually pose the question at a staff meeting and talk. You pose question(s) at board meetings and committee meetings and talk. People learn through conversation. And learning produces change. Try these questions:

— How do we design processes that make things explicit (instead of implicit and hidden)?

— How do we overcome people’s general tendency for risk aversion and saving face? Because we do want people to take risks, e.g., speak candidly, share thoughts, question themselves and others.

— How do we create an organizational culture that nurtures understanding, ownership, and accountability?

— How can we design and foster meaningful conversations that stimulate learning and change?

— How do we foster conversation that reinforces the body of knowledge / best practice – and helps us anticipate next practice?

— How do we use information and conversation to make good decisions?

Want some questions that can help your organization develop an effective board? Check these out.

So what questions need to be asked in your organization? What topic needs to get on the table…and instead of sharing your opinion about the topic, you create questions to engage in meaningful conversation about the topic. Go for it!

Filed under: Leadership

About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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