When you start the strategic planning process for your association you’ll need to collect information from members. This information will help you articulate your plan later. Last week we went over how to get the most out of one on one internal interviews. This week we are focusing on how to maximize the value of internal group interviews. Like one on one interviews you should make it clear to the attendees that it is not an exchange of ideas; you are there to get answers and insight to specific questions that you have.
Group sessions allow association members to communicate with each other and work as a team. This dynamic collaboration offers insight that one on one interviews cannot match.
Prior to your group sessions make sure to meet with each person who will be attending. Even if you work with them everyday make time for a conversation. As we mentioned last week a 30-60 minute interview is best.
Those individual sessions will help guide the type of questions you ask in the group interview. If you notice different responses to one question in particular considering asking that again in the group interview. Ask clear questions about the issues association leadership are considering to attendees. This will help your group give more informed answers.
A few basic principles for group interviews:
- Make sure to keep the group small enough for everyone to speak and be heard.
- Remember that people are more vocal when their boss is not in the room. So if you are their direct boss or supervisor do not conduct the interview.
- Adapt a set of questions based on the list you used for one on one interviews. Make note of which ones were contentious and which ones had a more universal reaction. Start with one that unifies the group. Don’t be afraid to add questions based on your own thoughts and reflections since the one on one interviews.
- Announce to the group at the beginning of the interview what you will do with your notes. Similar to the one on one interviews you will get more frank responses if you can honestly say you won’t attribute anyone’s comments to them directly.
- Always tell your group at the beginning that you will send them your notes immediately after the interview. Allow them to recommend amendments to your notes and offer further commentary.
- Ask open ended questions, except where you need specific responses. Don’t be afraid to pose the same question several different ways to get the information you need.
- Exactly like the one on one interviews aim for a 45 minutes and do not go over an hour.
- Send an email to the group prior to the meeting to help them understand how it will be used in the broader process. Emphasize at the beginning of the email before you ask any questions. Always be honest about the reasons for the interview.
Group interviews get participants to take an active role in the planning process. It also gets them talking to each other and ensures everyone is on the same page.
As we said last week most people never seriously consider the future of the organization until someone like you comes along to ask. Do you have any tips for running internal group interviews? If so leave them in the comments or through social media.