As you start in the strategic planning process you will need to collect information which will help you articulate your plan. Conducting one on one internal interviews, and later group interviews, is a great way to gather that information. First by calling it an interview, you make it clear that it is not an exchange of ideas; you are there to get answers and insight to specific questions that you have.
On top of that association leadership can gain valuable insight in a one on one situation, which may not come across in your group sessions, especially if you are interviewing an introvert.
Try to have a brief conversation with every single person that will be in your group sessions, before the session even if you work with them every day. Of course a 30-60 minute interview is even better. This simple step takes a lot of pressure off you when you get to your first group session, and you’ll dramatically improve the results. One on one interviews will also give you a better idea of the questions to tackle during group time.
You’ll also hear a lot of the important history and biases in individual interviews that you just won’t get facilitating a group session.
8 basic principles for one on one interviews:
- Make sure they really are 1:1. Ganging up on someone in this type of internal interview will not produce the results you want.
- 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.
- Prepare a set of questions in advance and type your notes as you go. You can even send the questions to your interviewee in advance.
- Tell your interviewee at the beginning of the interview what you will do with your notes. If you can honestly say you won’t attribute their comments to them directly, you will get much more frank responses.
- Always tell your interviewee at the beginning of the interview that you will send them your notes immediately after the interview to give them a chance to edit them. This takes off all the pressure and makes for a much more open discussion. You will also get some useful input that your interviewee thought of after the interview.
- Keep your questions as open ended as possible, except where you need specific responses Don’t hesitate to ask the same question several different ways to dig out the information you need
- Aim for a 45 minute interview and do not go over an hour.
- Always provide context for how the interview output will be used in the broader process in an e-mail before and in person the beginning of the interview. Always be honest about the reasons for the interview.
One of the most useful reasons to do interviews is to simply get your participants thinking about planning in advance of your sessions. Don’t forget, most people never really think about the future of the organization until someone like you comes along to ask. Next week we’re going to look at how to conduct a great group interview.