7 Questions To Ask At Your Next Meeting (plus your chance to win a leadership book)

A great meeting can be equally as inspiring as a weekend with Richie on Necker Island.

But, other meetings can flounder in the “please-shoot-me-now-before-I-die-of-boredom-and-shove-my-ballpoint-into-my-eye” wasteland.

The great news is, there are some simple questions you can begin using to shake things up, get people thinking (always a good thing), potentially make you look clever (again, always a good thing), or just make your meetings more effective.

Ten points (and a copy of Overworked and Overwhelmed by Scott Eblin) if you ask number 7 in a legit business meeting AND can send me proof that you did. Extra kudos if it’s in a client meeting. Seriously – I’m good for it.

Here Are 7 Questions To Ask At Your Next Meeting:

1. At the beginning of the meeting ask, “what needs to happen today for us all to think this meeting was worthwhile?”

This will immediately get everyone on the same page and clear about what you need to discuss, right from the get go. It also means people will be less likely to wander off down a random waffly track. We want to try and keep the waffle-ometer under control.

2. Managing multiple stakeholders or detecting groupthink? Here are a few variations of a good question to ask:

What are we missing?”

Whose perspectives are we missing in our discussion?”

“If we were to play Devil’s Advocate, what would we say?”

These questions will help you to view all facets of the perspective spectrum from an objective stance, resulting in a more well-considered outcome.

3. If you are all discussing a choice between two options, ask:

“Is there a third (or fourth) option?”

“If we had to think outside the box (or with fewer resources/limited time), what else would we come up with?”

“Is there any way we can do both?”

These questions are offered up as simple ways to avoid narrow framing and to widen your options in the incredibly readable and insightful book Decisive, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. If you’ve been following my leadership blog for a while, you’ll know what a raving fan I am of this book…

4. Assume a curious, ‘I’ve just had a thought’ tone and ask, “is it possible for us to ban Powerpoint from this meeting for all time?”

Or at least, adopt a rule whereby anyone who uses a whole lot of text and bullet points in their presentation has to do 20 burpees every time they put up said slide.

If you have to give a presentation to a group of your peers (or the Board), please, for the love of God, do your research first. Watch some decent TED talks, take up Toastmasters or simply put yourself in your audience’s shoes before you subject others to ‘death-by-Powerpoint’.

5. “What can we cut out or drop from this agenda? What can we stop doing?”

In my work as an executive coach and NZ leadership blogger, I’ve noticed there’s a tendency for corporates to add more, do more and expect more. Often it’s better to edit out and cut out.

To learn from an expert on the topic, read Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. If you’re part of the ‘I need to DO MORE to be successful and feel in control’ club, or your ‘To Do List’ is longer than Cousin Itt’s fringe, grab yourself a copy of this book (and if you’re too busy to read it, that’s exactly why you need to read it)…

6. As the meeting comes to a close, you could ask, “What have we learned from this conversation? What are our insights from what we’ve just discussed?”

Caveat emptor: Actually, maybe it’s best to only ask this if you’re chairing the meeting, otherwise you might look a bit like THAT GUY.

7. This isn’t exactly a question, but I highly recommend it all the same – try inserting the word “perconsons” (or an equally nonsensical word) into a sentence.

For example – “We should review the financial statements for the company in relation to the accounting period of the last financial year in respect to the perconsons…”

At the very least, you’ll see who’s awake in the room. And you might just all end up having a laugh together. Why? Having fun is crucial in business – it’s closely linked to creativity, innovation and relationship building. For more on the topic, click here.

If you’re really on the meeting bandwagon, here’s another blog about how to make your meetings more effective.

I look forward to hearing about your Perconsons exploits – and giving away a few books! Make sure you share this with your team members, to include them in the challenge.

Game on…

What questions help you to get more out of your meetings? Please share the love in the comments section below – I’d love to hear from you. 

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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