The average executive spends 23 hours of their week in meetings, and 71 percent say these meetings are unproductive and inefficient. Make better use of your time, and your team members,’ by reframing your approach. Our eight questions below will help you.
Earlier in our series on good questions, we mentioned that research shows high-performing teams are characterized by substantially more positive statements than negative, and by members who ask more questions than they advocate for their own positions. Creating opportunities for affirming comments and rich questions can spark ideas: you’ll find your team better prepared for problem-solving, solution-finding, and obstacle-hurdling.
Not only that, the structure of these questions (which are grouped to be used at the beginning, middle, or the end of your meeting) will help make your meetings more productive. We’ve all participated in the meeting that should have been an email. These questions can help save you and your team from that fate.
Raise excitement, not eyebrows, by running better meetings. Get started with these 9 tips from @ValuesDriven.
#1: What’s the high point experience of your last week?
In every meeting, we make a goal to accomplish two things right at the start: to begin on a positive note, and to make sure every person’s voice gets heard. Starting questions that ask about high point experiences, causes for celebration, or sources of excitement, help people connect positive emotion with their work and set the tone for a meeting that will move the team forward.
Additionally, asking a question that everyone is expected to answer ensures that even junior team members have their voice heard at least once, and that their work is celebrated in a small way.
This question, as well as several others below, are drawn from an Appreciative Inquiry approach. For more on this topic, see here.
#2: The purpose of this meeting is [fill in the blank]. Is there anything else that must be covered?
Meetings should happen because they accomplish something that couldn’t be done as effectively over email. This question establishes that purpose for the meeting and invites team members to raise emerging topics that require the team’s immediate attention.
#3: Is everyone clear on their role, and why they matter to this project?
Harvard professor Dr. Amy Edmondson finds that on effective teams, each member knows what unique contribution they are there to make. This gives meaning to the team member’s work and ensures that they are prepared to take responsibility for their piece of the project.
This question should be addressed clearly in a team’s first meetings and should be revisited as the project develops. In between these milestone meetings, it may be a question that you, as the leader, consider separately rather than asking aloud.
#4: What do we most want to happen with this project/initiative?
At the early stages of a team or project’s existence, this question can help create a shared vision of what you’re trying to accomplish. This question establishes the big leap forward you’re trying to make. In subsequent stages, the question can help identify priorities for that phase of work, and make sure that the current stage is pushing the team toward the bigger overall vision.
#5: When we are at our best around this sort of project, what makes it possible?
Asking this question can help you identify the organizational strengths, related to your project, that must be maintained in order to build on a foundation of success. Rule number one of leading change (whether that is a big organizational shift, or a smaller project that needs moving forward) is to start by naming what will not change. This question names those strengths, capacities, and values. Additionally, identifying these constants also reassures people who are hesitant about change.
#6: Do the resources we’re bringing to this project fit with our vision for it? Are you committed to this path or do you have another idea?
Like question 4, this question can help make sure the work that’s being done is actively pushing the team toward the overall objective and that each member is taking ownership of the total plan. Establish an open flow of communication, and this question will also invite hand-raisers to share where the fit isn’t right, or the current tasks aren’t aligned to the overall vision. When someone introduces a new idea, be sure to follow it up with a quick summary of their contribution and the question, “Did I get that right?”
#7: If we could magically make three things happen before the next meeting (or before next quarter), what would they be?
Our natural tendencies in meetings is to match every decision up against the organizational realities, especially available budgets and time. That has to happen in order to get anything done. But the process can also create artificial limits that restrict our thinking. The result is maintaining the status quo, or only managing incremental growth when a big jump is needed. Asking a question like #7 pushes people to think more innovatively for a minute, to ask if a bigger win might be possible.
#8: What excites you about these ideas?
Mature teams or long projects can often go through periods of fatigue, where team members feel tapped out. As you draw your meeting to a close, asking for points of excitement can raise the energy level and also confirm that the solutions you’re working toward are the right ones.
#9: Let’s review what will happen before the next meeting. Do we agree?
Finally, end the meeting by making sure everyone is on the same page. Be clear on who is in charge of accomplishing what before you meet again.
High-performing teams know how to weave more questions, and more affirming dialogue, into their meeting. Our nine questions will help you frame meetings that matter so you can accomplish more, faster.