Who doesn’t love Einstein? That’s his blackboard above, from a lecture he gave at Oxford on 16 May 1931 about the expansion of the universe. His quote below is about another kind of growth.

The important thing is not to stop questioning.

It works both ways too. Never stop asking, absolutely, but never stop putting yourself out there to be questioned too.

When it comes time for a Q&A, everyone fears the sound of tumble weed blowing through the room. I’ve always found that one or two people will step forward to open things up – the way to encourage them and  others into the circle is to make it safe but always following the rules:

Be calm – no matter what is asked or implied, keep your cool. As Jefferson said, “Take things always by their smooth handle.”

Be honest – always the best policy. I’ve stood in front of groups dealing with the risk of insolvency and redundancy. Whether the news is hard like this or full of joy, don’t dress it up or polish it with varnish. The truth is all anyone asks.

Be there – there’s no escaping difficult questions. Only politicians cut sessions short.

Be open – there are always subjects you can’t discuss but you can still give fulsome answers. Asked why I was closing a division and making redundancies, the only way to remove everyone anxiety was to expose the full decision making process. What went wrong, what the numbers looked like, what we expected to happen next.

It’s as much about how you answer as what you say. All these rules are really about respect. Build that into your foundations to make question sessions easier, on both sides, every time.

Skippy Strategy: Next time you have a Q&A, don’t stop until every question has been asked and answered.