Two Questions to Make Yourself a More Valuable Contributor

Master keys unlock every door. 
They are incredibly powerful.

When thinking about how to unlock the potential that rests within a group of people coming together to collaborate, I suggest two questions you can ask yourself, ones that function as personal master keys:
  • What contribution can I make in this conversation to advance our collective work?
  • What factors do I need to consider to successfully make that contribution?
In my experience, individuals who thoughtfully consider these questions and then act on their answers are more vital contributors to group work regardless of the group composition, its purpose, or the individual's prescribed role in it. Like a Master Key, the questions are universal in value. Let's dig a bit deeper into each one.

What contribution can I make in this conversation to advance our collective work?

Answering this question requires mentally stepping outside the group and assessing its current reality without judgment, much as a facilitator might:
  • What is happening? 
  • What is being said? 
  • How are people interacting? 
  • What is the mix of participation (both extroverted and introverted)?
  • Whose voices are not being heard? 
  • What perspectives are not present among the actual participants? 
  • Where does agreement or disagreement exist? 
  • Where is there understanding and where might confusion exist?
  • What's absent from the discussions?
Answers to these questions (and others you might generate) will help you identify what the group may need to make progress. You can then consider what contribution you might make to what you've identified as being needed.  This transitions you to the second Master Key question.

What factors should I consider to successfully make my identified contribution?

Your contribution will occur within a context and culture. Think about the action you've identified in relation to the following question in order the shape the manner in which you might the contribute:
  • What is the culture in which this group operates, as well as the culture of the group itself?  
  • What trust and social capital have you built with groups members and which ones?  
  • How alike or different is the contribution you want to make from how you normally act in this group?  How might this affect how it will be perceived or received?
  • How might your default style help or inhibit you successfully making the contribution you've identified?
  • How might you modify your tone, expression, language, et al in order to have people hear the value you are trying to contribute? 
  • What observable behavior and understood data can you link your contribution to and how might you build on what others have shared?
At first, working with these two Master Key questions may require great focus, perhaps even jotting down your thoughts.  But as you consistently do so with both intention and attention, the less perspiration they will require over time.


When all else fails, consider consulting a "locksmith", someone whose personal qualities and/or experience with the group might help with a stubborn lock.