Even the most junior person stands out when they ask great questions.
Questioning is a powerful tool that can help anyone to unlock ideas, facilitate clarification to enable more effective results, build relationships and avoid unforeseen pitfalls. It shows that you’re deeply listening and you’re paying attention. They’re also a great way to add your voice in meetings, maybe even when your brain’s not 100% game-on.
What To Do (Bites)
Questions when meetings are meandering
Meetings can take on lives of their own. In no time, they can go off course, start solving for a different problem, create energy on a path that doesn’t really make sense, but momentum is building. You can be the one that gets everyone back on a course with a few great questions:
- “What’s the real problem we’re trying to solve for?” Ask it at the beginning or when heading off track. It re-anchors everyone in the right problem. If that question can’t be answered, the team must refocus on alignment around the problem.
- “What is the outcome we’re trying to achieve?” Reframing to the outcome or end goal can clarify the road and the problem to be solved.
- “What will we not address?” Or similarly: “Is this something we need to address to solve the problem we’re focusing on?” Setting guardrails will enable focus
Questions that raise consciousness around implications of choice
Ideas get thrown around, then solutions chosen often without thinking through the implications. Shining a light on the ramifications of choice can help avoid unforeseen pitfalls (and make you look good). Try these:
- What’s the implication of that choice (good or bad)? Or, implication of that assumption?
- What could be an unintended consequence of that choice? Assumption?
- What would have to be true to be successful? To make this choice work?
- What if [what we just said] wasn’t true? (This is an epic question to a group or individual who holds strong bias.)
Group think or group bullshit can muddy any meeting. Or, words and language gets so cluttered, you sense everyone is not operating under the same assumptions. Try these:
- What are we really trying to say here?
- What is the clearest statement of the point we’re trying to make?
- What is the single idea that we will hold on to?
“There are people who ask those killer questions in meetings and I think, I should remember those so I can have them in my back-pocket for when I need them.”
Use questions sparingly and consider tone. A few well-placed questions per meeting can be pivotal. Being the person who asks too many questions is annoying. And asking in a way that sounds denigrating or combative won’t serve us well.
Ask questions and problem solve. You need to be a contributor to the conversation, not just a facilitator. Don’t over-rely on questions as your method of engagement.
Don’t be the one who asks the question when time is running out. It’s the bomb that no one appreciates.