The process of shifting a team to engage them fully in solving a problem, looking for opportunities, or challenging the cultural norms takes practice but can be successfully started using a simple discussion framework that we call Benefits, Concerns & Suggestions.

 The Benefits / Concerns / Suggestions framework is an easy to use discussion process that will shift the way your team works.  To use the framework, take the following steps:

  1. Select an issue, project or topic that you know your team has opinions about but you haven’t been able to find a way to engage them.  Be sure to put the topic or issue on the agenda* so that people know it will be discussed. 
  2. When it is time to talk about the topic or project, give a brief overview of the status and the approach or solution you are leaning toward.
  3. Ask each of the participants (yourself included) to write down:
    • The Benefits they see as they review your approach
    • The Concerns they have when they consider your approach
    • Any Suggestions they have to enhance, refine or change your approach
  4. Go around the room and first ask each individual to report out on the Benefits they see to your approach – listen deeply to each person’s perspective and if you have a white board, consider writing down their central points.  Add your thoughts about the Benefits when it is your turn but don’t lecture or preach, just add what you believe to be the Benefits.
    • As you go around the room, do not comment on the validity of their input, do not reward or frown . . . listen, be curious, and make notes!
    • Once you have heard all the Benefits – comment on the themes and ask if anyone had other thoughts as they listened to the group.  If they do, add that to the list.
  5. Go around the room a second time and ask each individual to report out on the Concerns they have when they consider your approach or solution.  Include your concerns when it’s your turn. Write down the key themes you are hearing.
    • And, again do not comment on the validity of their input, do not reward or frown . . . listen, be curious, and make notes!
    • Once you have heard all of the Concerns – note the themes and ask if anyone had other thoughts as they listened to the group.  If they do, add them to the list.
  6. Go around the room and ask each participant (yourself included) any Suggestions that they have for moving forward effectively.  And, as you have done with Benefits and Concerns, write down the Suggestions you are hearing.
    • Do not comment on the validity of their input, do not reward or frown . . . listen, be curious, and make notes!
    • Once you have heard all of the Suggestions – note the themes and ask if anyone had other thoughts as they listened to the group.  If they do, add them to the list.
  7. Finally, take a look at the input and, if there is an obvious way you can use their input to move forward – go for it, there is nothing more rewarding than for them to see and experience the impact of their thinking.  If there is nothing obvious, then with excitement and appreciation, tell them how much you appreciate their input and participation and that you will take their thinking back to your office to review and to consider how to integrate it into your thinking.  Then actually do so!

Use this format to foster engagement and communication.  Always treat the input with respect and interest.  Before you know it, your meetings will provide the wisdom of all the participants and the format will become a staple of the meeting!

* You do need an agenda for your meetings? To help you with this, we’ll be talking about that in two weeks.