“Don’t apologize for asking a question that is in the forefront of your mind.”
I had an aha moment one Thursday in an instructional coach meeting (pre-pandemic) as I sat and listened to a concern that was brought up that we needed to grapple with. One of our coaches said I’m sorry for bringing this up… It made me pause and think… Why do we say we are sorry for something that we know will take up additional time? Why are we saying sorry for what matters. If we don’t tackle the hard conversations – the stuff that requires deep thinking, then we will never see ourselves move forward. I then realized that sometimes, we just need to know we have the freedom to truly say what we are thinking. That is a true community of practice when you can bring up the pressing issues, you can disagree, and you can be you. We also need to know how to stay focused when there are tons of issues on the peripheral. From our conversations that Thursday, reflections from the past year, and just thinking toward the future the following is in the forefront of my mind as a facilitator.
Check In with the Team: Does the topic seem viable for conversation in the moment? Check in with the team. Is this something we should address now or address later and if later, when? Add it to the agenda either for that day or for a future meeting.
Table It (but don’t forget it): Teams need to know that they can bring up the hard issues and things they are unsure about and if we can’t do something with it right away the facilitator will “table it” and the topic will move to a list to discuss in the future. This allows us honor the thinking or the question and respect the timeframe we have together.
Write About It: Not enough time to talk about the issue, yet it is deserving of some thinking time? Give the team 5 minutes to write down their thoughts and then ask them to think on it more and the next time the team comes together, it will be discussed.
Of course, sometimes things are brought up that deter the work or just don’t fit at that time. This happens and even if it doesn’t connect a team member should not apologize. It is the role of the facilitator to acknowledge thinking and bring the team back to the conversation at hand.
Return to the Goal: Acknowledge the comment of the team member yet remind them of our goal for the meeting. Ask them to hold onto their idea for later when you talk about that topic or go more deeply.
Be Transparent: Simply just share with the team that our focus today is on _________________ and that does not align with our focus. Have an agreement as a team that we will be transparent when these things happen so that we can be as productive as possible.
Acknowledge and Give it Away: Acknowledge the issue yet state that is not something this team can solve, yet let’s share that with __________________. Have the team member be in charge of relaying the message to the person or team that can problem-solve the issue coming up.
This is not an exhaustive list – it is just initial thoughts on how we can build a team culture that does not apologize for bringing something up yet determines what to do that is best with what did come up. So always remember, “Don’t apologize for asking a question that is in the forefront of your mind.”
*This piece of writing was sitting in my drafts. Thank you Slice of Life Challenge for giving me a chance to start looking at my drafts from over a year ago and bringing them to life.