Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Lead Meetings with Questions

How many of you like to go to meetings at work?

How many of you would rather be at a sports game of your favorite team? Or at an awesome movie?

Do you lead meetings at your place of work? If so, how exciting are they? Do people want to come to them? Are people engaged in your conversation?

I lead meetings in my work many times throughout the week.  I used to be really, really, …I mean REALLY bad at leading meetings.  When I first started leading my team through a weekly meeting, no one would talk …..    but me.  I handed out a detailed agenda to everyone, only for them to place it on the chair next to them.  My meetings were so lame that I had to eventually ask the team to not use their cell phones or their laptops during the meeting so that they would pay attention to me! ugh!!

One great skill I have learned in making my meetings more exciting and more impactful for my team is that I Lead my Meetings with Questions.  

Lead Meetings with Questions

I love the game show Whose Line is it Anyway?  One of the games they play is that they have to act out a scene but can only use questions.  The game becomes crazy when a person has to answer a question with another question!

Questions are powerful.  They use the power of suggestion.  They INFLUENCE the conversation.  

Not just any question can influence the conversation though.  “What did you say?”  “What page did you say we are on?” Those are “Bonehead” questions.  Pay Attention!  😃

INTENTIONAL Questions are great conversation-starters.  A well-formed, well thought-out question posed at the right time in a meeting sparks thought.  It activates people’s minds.

When you ask a great question, you activate their mind

I found that when I would EXPLAIN a topic that needed to be discussed or decided on, people checked out; after all, people’s attention spans are very short.

However, when I would introduce a topic and then pause… and ask a really good question…and then pause…. give space for quiet…  I noticed a different reaction….

I noticed that everyone in the room was thinking.  Everyone was pondering.  You can tell by their eye movement.  Some look up.  Some look down.  It’s amazing!

If I don’t get a response after a while, then I ask    Another Question,      a more specific Question.  

Frame the question in a different way.   Now,   they start thinking again.    Then, someone will speak up, but someone else will question their statement.  Then, yet another disagrees.  The first person defends what they said and explains their thought process.  Others sit quietly observing the interaction.  The most talkative person at the table goes in to a long dissertation full with detail to support his or her claims.  If the conversation gets too far off focus, then I will re-direct the conversation.  But…. wallah!! They are engaged in the conversation! Mission accomplished.

Asking questions does not mean that you let others hi-jack the meeting. 
As the Leader, you steer the meeting, you keep your hands on the wheel.  To do this, you need to know where you are taking them - you are the Navigator.  Map out what outcome you want from the meeting.  This takes thought and preparation to prioritize what projects you want to take on, what your team’s focus needs to be, what needs to be side-lined.  

To plan out my meetings, I use the power of questions to help me as well.  Many of us don’t allow enough time to plan for a meeting or for an event we are asked to speak at.  We are guilty of just working from last week’s meeting agenda, or last week’s speech.  Rather, put the time in to prepare by asking:

What would be fresh for the team?
What is fun for the team? What will activate them? Catch their attention? Make them laugh?
What is a story I could ask someone to share that will illustrate for the team why we do what we do?
What would my boss want me to dream about with the team to expand our reach? What challenge would he or she want me to tackle head on?
What is a new skill or new idea that I could introduce to the team to get us “un-stuck”, to get re-invigorated?

Here are some other great questions:

Why can’t we try this?
If failure were not a possibility, what would we believe for? Dream to achieve?
Who else can do this task?
What is the wisest thing to do?
Have we asked for feedback from those people around us? What are they saying? What are they feeling?

Questions can go on forever.  But, I find them as powerful activators in meetings with your team.  

Questions allow people to consider other possibilities

Questions allow people to deal with their emotional responses

Questions help people solve problems in creative ways

So, my question for you is….   

why aren’t you using questions in your meetings??