We've all had that experience of sitting through a terrible meeting where the person in charge rattles through their agenda, gets their point across and leaves no room for debate or collaboration. As a result everyone leaves uninspired, un-enthused and un-empowered.
In my experience great leaders turn this dynamic on it's head and instead of leading meetings they facilitate them. The key to any good facilitation is to ask good questions. Here are five great questions to ask at your next meeting to ensure your people are engaged and ready to move to action.
1. What questions do you have?
This question works well right after you've given an update or a set of instructions. Better than the binary "Do you have any questions?" which almost always elicits a resounding "no", this open question assumes that your people are eager to delve deeper into the topic at hand. It also gives permission to folks in the room to take the conversation in the direction most useful for them.
2. Who would like to share first?
The emphasis on the question is on the last word, "Who would like to share first?" Another assumptive question, this lets your audience know that you're looking for a range of people to share their thoughts, rather than just one person to sum up the room's perspective.
3. How does that play out in real life?
We have a tendency to share in generalities or themes. In fact we're almost biologically wired to do so as pattern recognition helps us make sense of the complex world in which we live. However when giving feedback or starting discussions, generalities can be less helpful than specific examples. If there's something brought up that would be helpful for the group to explore, this question helps bring it into your day-to-day world, making it more tangible and relatable.
4. What are your two biggest takeaways?
This question assumes that your people are leaving with either a) more insight or knowledge into a subject or b) some concrete next actions they need to implement. Quite frankly, if that's not happening then either they shouldn't be in the meeting or the meeting itself shouldn't be taking place as it's wasting everyone's time. Getting your team to reflect on their two biggest takeaways (even better if you have them commit to them in writing) establishes in their mind the value of the session. It also increase the likelihood that they will follow through with whatever next actions they walk away with.
5. How can I best help?
One of your key roles as a leader is to help block and tackle for your people, removing obstacles that present themselves and easing your team's route to success. On the flip side, one of the worst things you can do as a leader is solve all of your people's problems, which in turn builds learned helplessness. This question signals to your team that you're there to assist but also gives you the ability to say "yes, no or maybe" according to the appropriateness of the situation.
What other questions do you have that are helpful for facilitating your team meetings?