Blog - The 5 questions to ask to ensure buy-in.

Blog - The 5 questions to ask to ensure buy-in.

The ability to express an opinion on the internet, without having a face to face conversation, makes it harder and harder to build the trust and the respectful relationships needed to truly influence an audience.


Given the human tendency to take the easiest path we have become like unquestioning sheep, following those who make the most noise and have the biggest following. This is having the effect of polarising opinion rather than promoting, step by step dialogue encouraging thinking and ownership, followed by considered action.


We’ve become obsessed by what we believe is the ‘right’ way to think and act rather than keeping an open mind and not judging until we have enough evidence to support a point of view. We think we know how others will react but the truth is, until we actually ask them face to face, we really don’t know. We think we do but we don’t!


The result is that we’re inclined to ‘tell’ people what to think rather than inviting them to consider a different point of view, accepting that we cannot force them do anything and letting go that it matters. This more thoughtful approach requires an adult to adult conversation, where responsibility for each step of the conversation is shared equally between the participants. For managers, this is probably the biggest challenge they ever face. To complete a conversation where the other person is prepared to take responsibility for their actions has a high value.


If we do recognise this is a necessary ability to develop, we are often held back by not actually knowing how to do it. Below are 5 questions that will help you to enrol the other person into taking an action you believe would be of value to them.


1.     What is your biggest challenge at the moment?

This question establishes that the challenge your think the other person is facing exits in their mind in the same way it does in yours.

Summarise concisely what they say without judgement so that they can respond with a yes. Not quite as simple as it sounds but doable, you may need to make a couple of corrections before you get the yes, but you need to get the yes! Having them respond with a yes is important as it establishes you are both on the same page and they will then take responsibility for that fact.

As a rule, human beings are not good listeners, this is a skill we have to learn if we really want to be of help and of course, respectfully listened to in return. Often our preferred approach is to wait for the other person to stop speaking so we can tell them how to solve the problem we assume they have.


2.     How is it going?

By ask this you are  finding out how they are relating to the challenge and as you listen, this is an opening to considering how you might support them whilst keeping the responsibility for solving the problem with them. Until you can see a way that you can help and the other person is ready to recognise that, it is too early to attempt to do so.


3.     On a scale of 1-10 how important is it to you to solve this problem?

I often think I know what they will say when they answer this question but have been taken by surprise when, what I think will be an 8 might is a 5. This makes a difference to whether they would see the point of accepting my help. After all if it only a 5 why would you bother?


4.     What will happen if you don't take on this challenge? Followed by asking, What will happen if you do handle it?

Answering these two questions gives the other person an opportunity to consider the cost of acting and the benefits of doing so, leaving them better informed. This may be the first time they have fully considered each potential outcome and it’s surprising what a difference it can make.

By this stage you have taken them for a walk around the challenge helping them stand back and get a better handle on it and at the same time, releasing their resourcefulness. At this point they may have come up with a solution on their own and tell you enthusiastically what that is. It might not be the solution you would have suggested but it will be something that makes sense to them and is something they can act on straight away. If you see flaws in their argument you can continue to ask questions about how their solution will work in practice. They will soon see the potential problems.


At this point, if they still feel stuck, you can ask:

5.     Would it be helpful if I made a suggestion?

If they say yes then you have the floor as you have explored all the alternative avenues they had in mind and know they are open to your ideas. If you now give advice it is something they can add or not to their options but, given you have been listening carefully to them, why wouldn’t they want to hear from you?

Whatever happens next is their choice They are in control and any decision they take is one they are much more likely to execute.

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