There have been many times throughout my career when I have struggled to find that right, next question to ask a client when they are briefing me on a new assignment. These awkward pauses typically happen when I am trying to balance the need to understand the upstream ‘problem to be solved’ with the need to be clear on downstream executional details. It can feel like I am piloting a plane that is flying haphazardly between higher and lower altitudes.
One way that I have learned to take control and smooth out these early discussions is to visualize the information that I need to do my work. Below is a framework that I often have running in my mind during these meetings where I am intaking a new assignment. It helps me to better organize the conversation and visualize the information that I need to take away. Hopefully it provides you with a place to start and way to avoid a crash landing.