Want A Better Meeting? Try These Questions

We’ve all been there – sitting through a meeting that feels like a long road to nowhere. Or worse, a meeting where the destination is clearly wrong but no one is saying so. We feel your pain. Escaping meeting purgatory is one of the things we love most about being entrepreneurs. We’ve come to believe that the big difference between a miserable meeting and a great meeting is whether Truth is present. Truth: that well-informed, good-bad- and-ugly picture of a situation.

Truth is the place a group gets to when they move beyond the fear and posturing to say what needs to be said, do what needs to be done, and make a strong, well-informed decision.

So, what can we do to shift our meetings from time wasters to productive hours that people look forward to? As a leader you either own or can influence how a meeting is led. You can start by asking questions that get at the Truth up-front versus later in moments of crisis.

Five Questions

Here are five straightforward questions that will get you to the truth faster and create better, more relevant meeting outcomes.

1. Why?

Ask ‘why’ first. Every, single meeting.

This question is important for any kind of meeting, in any kind of business in any industry.

Good ‘why’ questions to ask:

  • Why are we doing what we are talking about doing?
  • Why does it have to be done like we’ve done it before?
  • Why are we choosing to keep doing it this way if it’s not working?

Ask why first.

2. What’s the impact of the decision we’re about to make?

We want your decisions to move your business forward in a powerful, bold, strong direction. To do that, we want you to challenge yourself and your team to think broadly.
Consider the following questions:

  • What’s the overall impact of that decision?
  • What’s the impact of this decision across business units, levels, genders, geography, goals?
  • How will this decision impact not only those of us sitting in this room, but also, and more importantly, the people not sitting in this room?

This question offers a deeper challenge and a deeper Truth – it is an opportunity to think about whether you know enough about and understand fully the impact of this decision.

3. What do we not know that we need to know – what is it that we’re missing to know the truth?

If Truth is that full, unfiltered picture of a situation, then you need clear access to that picture.

As much as you want to avoid it, you need to know everything. Start asking what is it that you need to know.

Chances are what’s missing in the discussion is what’s holding you back from accessing the truth.

4. What is not being said that needs to be said?

Group think is one of our biggest pet peeves. The last thing we want is group think – that brainstorming session or meeting where everyone says, feels, does the same thing, reacts the same way. When that happens, a business or team lacks the diversity necessary to take the business to the next level.

You need that diversity of thought. As daunting as a full room or full conference line can be, shift your thinking – more people, more voices, more perspective.

You want to hear from as many people as possible. You want to tease out insights and questions and truth from the contrarian, the humanitarian, the accountant, the intern, the project manager. Because sometimes it’s not about the question or the answer – sometimes it’s about who steps up to answers it.

5. Who does this decision or choice really serve?

If you were eyeball-to-eyeball advising your most important client, could you recommend this as a good decision? Do your clients or your customers need this? Do your team members need or want this? IF not, then why are we really doing it? Be honest with why you are making this decision. Don’t sugar coat.

Getting to the Truth now will make for a more interesting, more productive, smarter meeting. And, more importantly, it will make you a more well-informed leader; a leader with the guts to hear the real deal. The upshot? After doing this for awhile, you will actually shorten your meeting time and move to action more efficiently.

We need leaders who drive themselves, their teams, their boards, their decision-making towards Truth faster.

We need more leaders who want the unvarnished Truth.

Start uncovering more Truth now by trying these ideas:

  1. Make a list of the important, business decisions you and your team need to make in the next 60 days. Think about how you can start to implement these questions into those decision-making processes.
  2. Ask one or two of these questions in the next meeting you lead; see how these questions change the conversation, energy, and decision making.
  3. Talk to the team today about having ‘real’ meetings – ask them what that means to them and make agreements about how to improve the discussion in and outcomes from your next meeting.
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