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Board Bites: Are You Asking the Right Questions?

22 July 2014 By Janice Van Reyk (WCLP '95) FAICD

In this month's edition of Board Bites, LV Facilitator and professional non-executive director, Janice van Reyk, reveals the art of good questioning and its impact in the NFP Board room. Could you be delving a little deeper?

It's time to start questioning your questions!

The art of asking insightful questions is a core skill that is the hallmark of an effective director. Like any skill it takes time and practice to master. Great questions are about genuine inquiry not comments or opinions dressed up as a question. Great questions contribute to a culture of inquiry around the board table that leads to sound and shared decision making.

Here are some tips on how to frame and ask good questions:

  • Come well prepared for the meeting having read and considered the papers
  • Start from a positive and constructive mindset: what is your motive for asking the question? What responses are needed from the others around the table?
  • Don’t ramble and waffle: phrase and structure the question clearly and concisely
  • Be well informed and knowledgeable about the organisation’s business, the industry in which it operates and the context of its operating environment
  • Check or test assumptions, clarify important aspects of a proposal
  • Focus on strategic matters not questions of detail, ie the higher order issue not the lower order issue
  • Be relevant to the organisation at hand, not some other organisation where you might have or had an involvement
  • Don't ask for basic information that can readily be found elsewhere

In general “What” and “How” questions open up thinking. “Which”, “Where” and “When” questions provide direction. “Why” questions require a justification.

Are you asking effective questions at your board meetings?

Janice Van Reyk (WCLP’95) FAICD, is a co-facilitator of LV's board programs and professional non-executive director

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