The Four Directions of Questions
Whether you’re a corporate trainer, a project manager, a business analyst, or any other kind of leader in an organization, at some point you will need to deal with questions. You might need to ask questions of your training participants or your stakeholders. Alternatively, your training participants or your stakeholders could be asking you questions. With all of this questioning back and forth, it’s helpful to understand the four directions of questions:
1. Direct Questions. Direct questions are those in which the program leader asks a question to a specific participant. These are necessary on occasion; however, they can potentially put a person “on the spot.” In a learning environment, it might be good to avoid these questions.
Example: “Steven, what is an example of an elicitation technique?”
2. Overhead Questions. Overhead questions are those in which the program leader asks a question to the participants in general; anyone can answer. These questions can be much safer because they do not put anyone “on the spot.”
Example: “Who can name the five process groups in the Project Management Lifecycle?”
3. Relay Questions. Relay questions are questions that are used as a response to a direct question to the program leader. A participant asks the program leader a question, and the program leader relays the question back to the participants in general. This is a great way to get other participants to share their thoughts on the question. This is also helpful in increasing participation.
Example: A participant asks the group leader, “What are some examples of risks on a process improvement project?”
The group leader responds, “Great question! Can someone share their experiences with risks on a process improvement project?”
4. Reverse Questions. Reverse questions are also questions that are used as a response to a direct question to the program leader. A participant asks the program leader a question, and the program leader reverses the same question back to the person who asked the question. These questions help to gain confirmation of the original question as well as to see if the participant already has his or her own thoughts about the topic. Of course, this might also put the participant “on the spot,” so these questions should be used with caution.
Example: A participant asks the group leader, “What should I do if my stakeholders have conflicting requirements for my project?”
The group leader responds, “Great question! What do you currently do when you’re confronted with conflicting requirements among your stakeholders?”
A combination of these four directions of questions can create excellent group dynamics in any type of facilitated sessions. What are some of the ways that you believe you can use these four directions of questions in your sessions?