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Asking Touch Questions
by Sandra Trice Gray

See the complete list of articles by Sandra Gray.

Board and staff meetings are great places to ask questions that lead to honest and critical evaluation.

On the agenda of a recent staff meeting, I put this question: "Are we getting the information we need to work more effectively?"

To keep an organization relevant, today?s leaders must incorporate a process of ongoing evaluation into their daily operations. While statements or topic labels often keep mental processes functioning in traditional ways, questions encourage creativity and new ideas. Associations can begin asking evaluative questions at the most basic times: when we meet.

Consider, for instance, how staff or committee meeting agendas can provide opportunities for reflection by putting forth questions such as these:

  • What one action can we as an organization take right now to break through to a higher level of effectiveness?
  • Since we last met, how have we advanced our mission, program plan, or committee charge?
  • What prevented us from making further progress?
  • Are the right people at the table? Who else needs to be included? With whom should we be collaborating?
  • What?s working? What?s not working?
Consider asking your board these questions the next time you meet:
  • How well is the organization achieving its mission?
  • What does the financial statement tell us about how effective we are using our resources to achieve the mission?

Perhaps of particular concern to boards of directors are those questions that evaluate not only whether the association is operating effectively internally, but also how well the association?s activities are maintaining the public?s trust. Questions such as these help to ascertain an organization?s commitment to the common good:

What do you see in the community that represents an opportunity for the organization to be more effective?

Does our organization foster reliability, community education, and outreach? Does the organization reward efficient use of resources?

Is our organization true to the standards upheld in public announcements, and are we responsible to public inquiries about the organization?s activities and finances?

Does our board of directors demonstrate that it bears ultimate responsibility for all actions of our organization, including ethical behavior?

There is no perfect protection against association executives making poor decisions while trying to do "the right thing." But adhering to sound processes ? asking ourselves good evaluative questions when we face tough choices and entering into discourse as we gather the information on which to base our decisions ? will help all of us avoid untold troubles that result from a lack of thorough analysis.

Ongoing evaluation happens as we build into the operating systems of our organizations practical opportunities for asking good evaluative questions and then allowing the time to reflect on them. Using a question-based format for meeting agendas is one way to gradually change the culture of your organization to one that embraces inquiry and feedback. And such adjustments to an organization?s culture can ultimately lead to those highly desired qualities of effectiveness, empowerment, and excellence.


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