Motivational Interviewing Techniques in the Workplace

Pushy managers and creepy sales techniques are thankfully a thing of the past. We now know that to reach people, the first thing we need to do is understand what makes them tick and to do that we need to learn how to listen and ask the right questions.

But what are the right questions and how can we show others we are listening?

Motivational Interviewing Techniques have successfully moved people from ambivalence or resistance to thinking about and embracing change for over 20 years. Sustained change is achieved by a series of questions and reflections that create a collaborative and supportive environment in which to facilitate change. You can successfully use Motivational Interviewing in a number of workplace interactions including team meetings, staff supervisions, training, health chats, employment tribunals, sales meetings, pitches and prospective calls for new business.

The key to Motivational Interviewing is to create an environment where others feel truly listened to and understood, whilst at the same time directing people to come up with their own ideas and solutions. People are much more likely to change if they are able to identify and commit to their own choices and make informed decisions based around these.

Try using the Motivational Interviewing Framework designed by Free Range Professionals to enhance your interactions with others and notice the difference this makes. You can adapt the sections to reflect more and question more, but make sure you use each section at least once.

Ask, Affirm, Question, Reflect, Clarify, Summarise

1. Ask Permission – always ask for permission from the person you want to talk to, don’t just assume they are free to interact. You could lead with one of the following;

“Is now a good time to talk a bit more about what we do at xxx?”

“Are you in the middle of something or is now a good time to talk?”

Would you mind if we had a brief chat about your progress on xxx?”

2. Give an Affirmation – highlight something positive about the company or person and affirm this.

“I wanted to tell you how impressive your web layout is.”

“From what I’ve observed your company really has a handle on xxx.”

“I found your presentation on xxx really informed and thought provoking.”

“it’s clear you have taken on your new role with real commitment and enthusiasm.”

3. Ask Open Questions – don’t ask too many questions but when you do make them count. Ask questions that elicit meaningful information from your prospect.

“What challenges are you currently facing with xxx?”

“If you achieved what you wanted with xxx, what would success look like to you?”

“I’d really like to understand your requirements, can you elaborate for me?”

“What would put you ahead of the competition?”

4. Reflect – this shows the person that you are listening to them and also gives you a chance to clarify the hidden meaning of what they are saying. The trick with reflection is not put words in the person’s mouth, which will really annoy them, but rather test for meaning based on what they say to you.

“You are finding it difficult to drive customers from Facebook to your site.”

“Your current provider can’t give you the detailed analytics you require.”

“You want to try something different.”

“You’re struggling to find the time to delegate your work effectively.”

5. Clarify – always clarify what a person says to you. This gives them a chance to correct you or add anything else that’s important. You want people to know you are listening to them, but you also want to understand exactly what they mean by what they are saying.

“So just to make sure I’ve understood correctly you would like to achieve xxx with your product?”

“To clarify, you are happy to go ahead with the next stage of the project?”

“So to clarify, you would like more time to find out what our competitors can offer and I’m going to contact you in a week to revisit this conversation?”

“Do correct me if I’m wrong, but you would like to move to the second phase of this project and test our service at one of our centres within the next 2 weeks?”

6. Summarise – you should always end every conversation with a summary of key points. This should be easy to remember if you reflect and clarify throughout the conversation. Ideally a summary should end in an action agreed by the person you are talking to, even if it’s simply agreeing to speak to your technical team, or have a few days to think over your proposal.

“To summarise our conversation today. You are facing a number of challenges with xxx. You are looking for a new way of working and currently exploring a number of providers in this area. You are happy for me to set up a meeting between us and our VP’s to explore how we might be able to provide the solutions you are looking for?”

“In sum, you are happy with what we are able to offer you, but you’d like to speak to our technical team to find out a bit more about the specifics of the issues you’ve shared with me to see if we can fully meet your requirements?”

“Just to summarise, you would like to find out more about our service and are happy for me to send you a copy of our latest annual review. We have also agreed to have a conversation on xxx date?”

“So we’re both clear on our actions, you will try out the new techniques we discussed today when managing xxx and let me know how this goes over the 2 weeks or so?I