3 Questions to Ask to Drive Better Conversations

The Newport Question Trio for Better Conversations

A client of mine recently shared several questions that they use in her organization to help leaders and managers, at all level, gain clarity, focus and accountability in their conversations. I call them the Newport Question Trio after my client. These questions are:

  1. Why? – Is this conversation going to make our business stronger?

This question gets straight to the point, is this conversation going to be of value and contribute to the business’ success? If not, then the conversation should not be held.

Key to doing this well is to make sure you frame what the conversation is about (and equally importantly what it is not about) properly. Your conversation frame needs to be tight, well-defined and clearly articulated so there is a shared and common understanding of what it is and what it is not.

  1. What? – What is our role? Should this be our decision?

Role: Too often conversations are held for their own sake, this leads to lots of discussion and no action. If the conversation is going to make your business stronger then you need to determine what your role is in what is being discussed. Your role may be key in which discussion is needed, or it may be tangential in which case no or little discussion is necessary.

Decision: You need to decide is this your decision? Here you have to distinguish between being accountable for a decision (i.e. the buck stops with you) and actually being responsible for making and implementing a decision. Too often senior executives get pulled into operational issues when they should be standing back and allowing those responsible for the work to do it. The decision should be made at the level which it is best made and implemented by those with the right knowledge, expertise and insights required.

  1. How? – Are we being clear in our conversation

Here there are two guidelines to help you. Firstly, are you saying everything that needs to be said? And secondly, are you saying nothing that doesn’t need to be said? Focus on what is important and relevant, don’t get side-tracked, and keep on point.

Use these 3 questions for yourselves and your peers, and cascade them to those who work for you and see how your conversations improve and help to drive better actions and results.

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