Monday, June 16, 2008


Dear Friends,

Turn Meetings at work from Deadly Dull to Dynamically Directed with the use of these Simple Questions.

Here is a quick example of a practical way to immediately start improving meetings at work. Meetings are a necessary part of most jobs, but we often dread them because the tone and atmosphere is either a confrontational “prove yourself” reporting, or a dull recitation of details that seem irrelevant or are just "going through the motions".

You can easily make meetings more dynamic by knowing the right questions to ask. Adding just a few key questions can keep your meeting on target, and more productive. If you are the manager or the one organizing the meeting, answer these questions of yourself before you prepare the agenda.

What is the purpose of the meeting? Why are we here?

What are the goals, objectives we are hoping to achieve?

For example, is the meeting’s purpose to work on a big picture, detail, or process focus? Is it supposed to:

  • Give information/further understanding,

  • Solicit feedback or ideas;

  • Outline specific goals or productivity expectations;

  • Gain commitment to goal/project;

  • Report on progress/obstacles;

  • Discuss and assign specific incremental tasks to reach end result desired;

  • Discuss end results desired; or

  • Build shared vision?
If you are the employee you can interject these questions when a topic is stuck (or being flipped back and forth to avoid any resolution) and not being addressed. For example, if a manager is reporting endlessly on an upcoming project which generates a lot of ideas but no action plan, you can ask about the results that are expected and the incremental tasks needed to achieve them. You can ask about the timeframes within which certain phases will be completed. You don’t have to know all the answers yourself, because the right questions will elicit the best responses.

An important strategy: To avoid scapegoats and shirkers you can ask “what are we going to do?” and "How can we equitably divide this responsibility?" Then, tasks can be assigned within the social contexts of fairness and sharing.

You will avoid taking on more than your share and not allow anyone to disown his or her share of the work. But be aware -- if you do not set an example and immediately accept a portion of the responsibility prior to asking this type of direct question or immediately after having asked it, you will not be fact, instead of being an inspiration for taking responsibility, you will look like a hypocrite. As a general rule, you must set an example by your actions to set the tone for your questions. This is true for both employers and employees...for both team leaders, and team members.

We all hope if we're patient, someone else will fix the problems we observe in life. We know deep inside that no changes happen just by waiting and wishing for someone to set us free, give us rights, notice our discomfort, or pay us the wages we deserve. We need to stop enduring and start curing the deadly meeting doldrums. Asking the right fundamental questions in a directed manner helps convert expended time into invested time. A meeting is only as good as the results that it produces.

Try this strategy and let me know how it works for you.--Cinda