Team Briefing is the basis of true employee engagement, it enables managers to know that all employees are receiving information about the organisation and their own teams’ performance through their immediate team leaders.

Effective team briefing is a vital skill of a team leader no matter what position they hold and being able to deal with tricky or difficult briefing situations is an important part of a team leaders’ toolkit, which may be why our Team Briefing 1 day in house course is so popular

The following are some hints and tips to improve how you can deal with difficult briefing situations.

1. Set Expectations Setting expectations and is a great way to ensure that a briefing runs smoothly without constant interruptions. By stating expectations at the start of your team brief it will help you to manage the process more effectively.  For example, expectations may be set around the length of time the team brief will take, how and when questions will be taken, attention required (i.e. mobile phones and other electronic devices are switched off).

2. Dealing With Questions. It is important to treat everyone with the respect you’d like to have shown to you. Answer their questions directly and honestly.

Don’t ignore a question. Doing so may be taken as a sign of defensiveness on your part. Even if questions are inappropriate or ill-timed, try to acknowledge them and thank the other person for asking them. You may wish to refer to the expectations you set out at the start, and answer any questions at the end.

“I don’t know” is an acceptable answer to some difficult questions.  Never feel like you  have to know everything. People will soon see through any answers made up on the spot anyway.

However, in the majority of cases, not getting an answer to someone’s question is not acceptable.  Consider saying “Thank you. I do not know the answer to that very interesting question. I’ll have to get back to you on that, after I’ve spoken to (x). I will do this by (y)”.

3. Dealing with questions that keep on coming.  One of the most common difficulties you’re likely to encounter is a barrage of questions from a single or several team members. Sometimes these people really want answers to their questions but at other times the interrupter may have a disruptive motive.

The least confrontational way of dealing with a constant stream of questions is to answer each question as briefly as possible. Limit your answers to one ‘breath’ in length. Before stating your answer, ask yourself if this material will be covered later in your briefing. If it will be, tell the questioner that the material will be covered later. Don’t expand on your answers, because lengthy replies containing additional details will only serve to give the questioner additional opportunity to ask more questions.  Remember, keeping your answers brief minimises the negative effect of any interruptions and allows you to move on.

If you find that giving short answers and setting expectations haven’t deterred interruptions, acknowledge the question but delay the answer, letting the other person know that you will cover this at the end of the briefing.

4. Dealing with off-topic Questions and Discussions.  One or two ‘off-topic’ questions from your audience shouldn’t pose a problem, but if there are a lot of them this can be very disruptive and cause the briefing to wander or over run.

One technique for dealing with an off-topic question is to ask for its relevance to the briefing. The sooner you can relate the question to the briefing, the sooner you can move on. If the question is not relevant to the briefing, ask the individual to see you later.

5. Dealing with Confrontational Questions Separating the tone of a question from its content will help to diffuse it. If the tone is challenging and you respond to the tone with a challenging or sarcastic response, you decrease your credibility. Never ever lose your cool. Try to rephrase and restate the question in a neutral way to reduce confrontation.
Restate it and answer it as honestly and completely as you can.

6. Dealing With Someone who is angry or frustrated  If you encounter someone who has become particularly angry, upset or frustrated during your briefing, the best way to deal with it is to accept that they are feeling angry, upset, etc (you are not necessarily agreeing with them), but deal with it after the briefing. For example, “I recognise that (x) has made you angry / frustrated etc, and that you want it resolving. I suggest therefore that we discuss these issues separately after the briefing”.

7. Dealing with a ‘Heckler’  You may find you are conducting a brief and a member of the audience decides to make comment out loud (sarcastic, amusing or otherwise) about what you are briefing.  Again, never get upset, or lose control.  The best way is to find merit in what they are saying, or express agreement on something, and simply move on.

8. Dealing with a ‘Whisperer’.  Sometimes people may not hear what you are saying, or indeed not understand it and start asking questions of others or making comments to others.   The best way to deal with this is to simply stop talking and wait for them to look up and non-verbally ask for their permission to continue.

9. Always have the final say.  While it can be helpful to keep the questions until after you’ve given the brief, make sure that you have the final say – literally.

When you’ve answered all questions, ensure you finish your briefing with a summary of the main points covered.

Team Briefing is a vital part of an organisation’s communication process, and being able to brief teams clearly and effectively is an important skill.  This requires team leaders to be able to diffuse and manage difficult situations during their brief and we have provided hints and tips for managers that should prove invaluable but if you want to learn more consider our In House Team Briefing Training Course.