Preparing to facilitate a Team Session


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The success of team events or sessions can be more predictable when facilitators gather information from invited participants and stakeholders before planning the agenda, activities, and presentations.  Knowing more about the current issues and expectations can greatly enhance your chances of ensuring the team faces what they need to focus on and deal with that in a constructive way.

The source I am sharing, is a list of pre-session interview questions which could help you get a good foundation about the team: what is working, what could be better and how each of the interviewees sees the situations faced by the team.

Some important notes about pre-session interviews:

Starting right
  • If the team members do not know you (the facilitator) yet, be sure to introduce yourself to each interviewee and mention your role in the upcoming planned session. They may have additional questions about your background and experience in this area and why you are working on the planned session. Be prepared to summarize these points before you get into the interview.
  • Make sure you can explain to what degree the responses will be confidential. You would typically want to share a summary of responses with the session attendees to help set the scene on the day and perhaps use that to initiate a discussion or lead into an activity to address something that was mentioned by several participants during the interview. Will you be word-smithing the responses to protect the identity of interviewees? Or will you share the raw data? You need to be transparent about that.
  • Why are you asking? Be sure to explain how the answers and responses will be used to plan the session and help the team move forward and past any obstacles that may be holding them back.
  • Let them know upfront that their questions about the session will be answered during their time with you (the interview).
Planning your approach
  • Will you interview individuals or groups of individuals that work in a specific department or functional group? Think this through carefully with regards to the advantages and disadvantages of this choice before you make that decision.  I usually recommend that the number of session participants is no more than about 20 – 25 people and I prefer to know each individual’s responses before I finalize my planning for the session. This means I interview each person separately. But I can also imagine that the team/project culture and approach could make it useful to interview small sub-groups within the team.
  • In person or online? I prefer to do the interviews in person to allow me the opportunity to ask follow-up questions on the spot. Sitting with someone and talking through the questions gives you the opportunity to also watch their reactions or pauses after each question. This can indicate whether some topics may be sensitive to the interviewee and again you could choose to ask more questions to better understand the issues at hand.
  • The right number of questions. It is important that the interviews do not become exhausting. Accept that you will not be able to ask every single question that you may have for the planned participants before the session. Some questions are best worked out by the group at the session. Be very selective and critical – ask only questions which will help you prepare for the session. The interviews are not intended to replace the planned group/team session.

The questions in the (download available above) resource range from understanding expectations to identifying possible issues that the team needs to address. It includes some questions which may help with understanding possible issues that could pose an obstacle to team success.  Some of the questions are also specifically there to help team session participants envisage themselves being a positive contributor to the success of the session.

I do not suggest that all of the questions would be relevant to every session that you would plan, as the facilitator. Instead, I suggest that you use the ones that make the most sense for the session you are working on and feel free to add additional questions as needed in order to improve your understanding in the relevant areas that the session needs to cover.

Finally, it is important to realize that just the fact that you are asking questions and providing interviewees an opportunity to discuss their thoughts and impressions is in itself already a change management intervention. You are setting the scene for the session and helping to shape participation before the session. This could greatly enhance group dynamics and ensure the success of the planned session.

Questions for Coaching


Many managers mistakenly think coaching is about “telling” others what they should be doing. While some very inexperienced people may need you to tell them what to do or how to do it, most others need to learn and explore topics and new skills or behaviors with their coaches instead. The hard part for many coaches is to listen and ask the right questions. And also to refrain from taking up most of the airtime during coaching sessions talking about their own lives and their own stories or just offering advice. While children happily accept new information simply because you tell them how things are, adults prefer to explore and learn by comparing and assimilating what you are sharing with what they already know and have learned in their pasts.

closed question examples
Closed Questions

Coaching sessions is about asking open-ended questions which leads to learning and exploring. Asking the right questions is not an easy assignment to have as a coach. Some questions shut others down while limiting them to “yes” or “no” answers which does not allow for a rich conversation of exploration around the topic concerned. Closed questions are those that can be answered by a simple yes or no answer.

More useful questions to ask :

  • Open-ended questions help others expand on ideas and contribute to the conversation vs staying mostly in listening-mode. These kinds of questions can help you discover the other person’s thought processes, motivations and how they feel about a topic or an option.
  • Clarifying questions are helpful to ensure you understood your conversation partner correctly. When people get going on topics that they feel quite excited or passionate about they can sometimes lose sight of how familiar you are with that same topic. To ensure you (the coach) are able to follow along, you may need to pause, look back and clarify any comment made which you were unable to place within the context of the topic being discussed.
  • Paraphrasing. This is a useful technique to summarize what you heard so far and help move the conversation towards a decision or planning a specific path forward (action). It also helps ensure that your impressions of what was said are correct. It can be very validating for someone to hear their own words summarized correctly by another trusted person (in this case you, as the coach).

This list of questions for coaches (which you can download above) can help you to ask the right questions at your next coaching session. I recommend you read through this as you prepare for the session, but do not commit yourself to asking specific pre-determined questions regardless of how the conversation goes. The important part about asking questions at a coaching session is that you (the coach) show up with a mindset of curiosity. That opens up the exploration in the conversation and enables learning to take place which is vital for adults in their learning process.

Use the links to other content which I show below and also the resource I am sharing above as a way to prepare for and get into inquiry mode before the planned coaching session.

These are great questions to consider asking when you coach: Life Coaching Questions    Coaching questions for managers