Lean4U Workshops

The Secret Profession

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20 - 305 - 15 Low

The art of questioning to better listen. 2 rounds for the same team to discover the secret profession of the facilitator (or one of the participants).



Understand and practice active listening through the use of questioning techniques




    This method can be run by two facilitators A and B. Facilitator A runs, Facilitator B has the secret. If you are the only one facilitator, then take apart one of the participants prior to the game and ask them to choose the wackiest profession (e.g., Thief, tag artist, …) without telling anyone.

    There are two runs -


    • Facilitator A explains to the participants that they have 90 seconds to try and find out the "secret profession" of Facilitator B (or the name of the participant).
    • Do not mention that there are two rounds!
    •  Facilitator A to:
    1. Share the rule to discover the secret profession: Participants can ask as many questions as they like apart from “what is your job?”.
    2. Mention that Facilitator B might be tricky and evasive when they answer any questions - but they cannot lie.
    3. Keep score of how many open and closed questions (ideally take note of some of them as examples for the debrief) – typically lots more closed than open.
    4. Hold timer up to camera

    NB: Let the participants organize themselves to ask the questions. Take note if the same people ask the questions and the rest of the crowd is quiet. 

    If participants have no questions, start counting down 3, 2,1 and click the timer to run the first 90 seconds.

    At 90 seconds stop any question or pending answer. Then debrief the first run.


    Questions that facilitator A can ask:

    • How did it go? How did it feel?
    • What made this exercise challenging?
    • How helpful were the responses of facilitator B? Has it had to see with the way questions were asked? Then transition to the questioning techniques.


    • Share and explain the questioning funnel, open and closed questions (See Questioning funnel picture)
    • There are not good and bad questions as some people think
    • Questions have their place to be used at the right time (e.g., closed for clarity at the end)
    • QA-QA (Question Answer-Question Answer): To do this you really need to listen and not think about next question.
    • Refer back to the first run and share the number of closed questions asked (share some examples and ask what answer they could expect apart from a yes or no…?!)

    Time to run the second run!


    • Time limit removed
    • Keep score of how many open and closed questions
    • Questions can be asked by each participant in turn or not (for the facilitator to judge)
    • Remember QA-QA: Think about open questions you want to ask based on answers

    NB: Facilitator may choose to help the team if they lapse back into asking closed questions again. They could even have another go with a different strange profession.

    This time the team should guess even the wackiest professions in about 5/6 questions.


    • Review exercise - what worked well / better this time?
    • Indicate the number of open-closed questions
    • Share the time to find out the secret profession


    Often we get into conversations that are “how’s it gone?”, ‘fine’, any issues?’, ‘No’….

    Reality: We don’t engage in conversation. When we do ask a question, we are not likely to be listening to the answer.

    If we ask the right questions, at the right time and stage of the funnel, then we will get more info back, in less time.

    We will also get a far more engaged team and a team who will feel really listened to. Questioning techniques can be useful at home too! :-)

    E.g., In a review, if you get ‘Yeah.. it was fine’… then think of what you can ask!

    This is not new learning. Anyone having kids? Kids are relentless at asking questions, we just learned not to!


    Source: https://react.co.uk/

    This exercise was a piece of an online weekly training program run for a large multinational. I run it in English, French and Spanish more than 20 times. The teams never guessed the secret profession at the first run. This exercise was a huge eye opener each time. Adapted and customized by Lean4U. Remote, but can be adapted easily for a hybrid or on-site delivery.

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