Hear and be heard: Achieving high-quality advocacy and inquiry at work
Do you ever feel like you can’t quite get your point across at work? Or maybe, you want to understand more about a decision that has been made? It’s frustrating to feel like you aren’t being heard, or that you don’t understand the motivation behind particular decisions that are being made. We sat down with Paul Larkin, Senior Facilitator and Executive Coach at WLA to find out how we can hear and be heard at work using high quality advocacy and inquiry techniques.
High-quality advocacy occurs when one states their point of view, explains their thinking and reasoning behind it, and invites and listens to another person’s point of view. High-quality inquiry is when one asks a question, shares what is behind their question and truly listens to the other’s response.
Most conversations typically involve each person putting forward their point of view. If you listen in to others conversations sometimes, you will likely notice very few questions asked, and those are often posed in a way that invites confirmation of one’s own point of view; very little real listening is undertaken. These is how low-quality advocacy and inquiry occur.
What’s the difference between low-quality and high-quality advocacy and inquiry?
According to Paul, the key difference between high-quality and low-quality advocacy and inquiry is your preparedness to reveal what is behind what you are saying and asking, and your openness to being genuinely interested in others’ views.
“Low-quality advocacy, or everyday advocacy, could involve you making a simple statement. For example, ‘I think we should have paid parental leave in our company.’ Now, while that is a very valid belief, that statement doesn’t reveal anything about why you think that, or how you came to that conclusion. It also doesn’t invite the other person to share their views,” Paul explains.
Similarly, low-quality inquiry occurs where you ask a question, without providing context, or meaningfully engaging with the person with whom you are speaking.
What does high-quality advocacy look like?
There is a simple formula for high-quality advocacy.
- State your belief, opinion or idea
- Reveal the thinking or reasoning behind your point
- Invite the listener to share their ideas about the topic
- Actively listen
With low-quality advocacy, you will find yourself stopping at the first step. There’s no real problem with this, but it’s also not very useful – you aren’t having an engaged, two-way conversation. Other barriers to achieving high-quality advocacy lie in feeling certain that you are right, or an unwillingness to consider other points of view.
According to Paul, the best way to encourage your team to use high-quality advocacy is to practise it yourself.
“The best way to influence others is by being a model of the behaviour you are trying to achieve. People may be so amazed at the conversational outcomes you get that they will want to know how you do it.”
What does high-quality inquiry look like?
As with advocacy, there are four steps to achieving high-quality inquiry.
- Ask your question
- Explain why you are asking the question
- Actively listen to their response
- Seek to understand their point of view
With low-quality inquiry, you will once again find yourself stopping at the first step, instead of going further to provide context, and to meaningfully listen and engage with the other person’s ideas. Barriers to achieving high-quality inquiry include the desire to be right, and a desire to be the person whose ideas are listened to and ultimately taken on board, leading to a disregard for the ideas and opinions of others on your team.
Paul gives this advice for achieving high-quality inquiry: “Be constantly curious; suspend judgement; offer more questions than statements.”
He adds, “whilst high-quality advocacy and inquiry may, on the surface, seem to take longer, the radical increase in understanding that arises leads to faster, more meaningful conversations and outcomes.”
Once you and your team have practised high-quality advocacy and inquiry, you can have more meaningful conversations, more fully understand each other and have more open, robust, and fruitful conversations.
How will you encourage your team to use high-quality advocacy and inquiry? Share with us in the comments below.