Unlock Engagement: Teach Your People To Ask Good Questions

Picture this: You’re in a meeting room, and instead of the usual silence or passive agreement, there’s a palpable buzz of excitement. Ideas bounce back and forth, solutions are born in real time, and every participant is actively engaged. A wonderful picture, isn’t it?

This need not be a rare occurrence or a happy accident. It can result from a deliberate shift, triggered by insightful questions. This ability to turn meetings from timewasters into idea-generators could a game-changer for teams and organisations.

Let’s explore how you can use skilful questioning to ignite meetings, making them a source of innovation and collaboration.

The Impact of Ineffective Meetings

It’s a familiar scenario in many organisations: meetings that are more of a chore than a productive exercise. Research shows that unproductive meetings waste time and drain creativity and employee morale. According to a study by Atlassian, employees spend, on average, 31 hours each month in unproductive meetings. This equates to nearly four working days lost – significantly impacting any organisation’s efficiency.

The consequences extend beyond mere hours lost. Poorly executed meetings can lead to a cascade of organisational inefficiencies, such as:

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They can also reinforce hierarchical structures, where only a few voices are heard, and others feel undervalued. The potential for genuine engagement and collaborative problem-solving is severely diminished in such environments.

But why do so many meetings fail to hit the mark? Common reasons include unclear objectives, unstructured agendas, and ineffective facilitation. Often, participants are unsure of their role or the meeting’s purpose, leading to disengagement. When meetings become a routine rather than a strategic tool for decision-making and brainstorming, they lose their value.

Enter the transformative power of questions. Skilful questioning can address these challenges head-on, turning meetings into dynamic forums for idea exchange and problem-solving. Questions can serve as a tool to clarify objectives, encourage participation from all attendees, and guide the conversation towards productive outcomes.

The Power of Questions in Meetings

Effective communication is at the heart of every productive meeting, and at the core of communication is the ability to ask impactful questions. Questions are more than just a means to elicit information; they are potent tools that stimulate critical thinking, foster open dialogue, and create a culture of curiosity.

The questions asked in a meeting can significantly influence its direction and outcome.

  • Closed questions typically elicit a yes or no response and can help clarify details or make quick decisions.
  • However, the open-ended questions are particularly potent in a meeting setting. These questions encourage more profound thought, invite diverse perspectives, and stimulate meaningful dialogue.

For instance, instead of asking, “Do you agree with this approach?” which might prompt a simple yes or no, asking, “What are your thoughts on this approach and how it might impact our project?” opens the door for detailed feedback and varied viewpoints. This shift in questioning brings out a wealth of ideas and ensures that every participant feels valued and heard.

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Effective questioning also involves a balance between asking and listening. It’s about creating a space where questions lead to further questions, where inquiry sparks more inquiry. This environment is conducive to creativity and innovation – exactly what meetings should foster in a forward-thinking organisation.

Techniques for Crafting Powerful Questions

Mastering the art of asking powerful questions is pivotal for invigorating meetings. The key lies in what is asked and how it is asked.

Here are some techniques for crafting questions that drive dynamic discussions:

  • Be clear and concise: The best questions are straightforward to understand. Avoid complex language that might confuse participants.
  • Encourage critical thinking: Frame questions that challenge conventional wisdom and encourage participants to think deeply. For example, instead of asking, “What should we do?” ask, “What possibilities have we not yet considered?”
  • Focus on open-ended questions: Encourage exploration and diverse viewpoints. Questions that start with ‘how,’ ‘why,’ or ‘what if’ often lead to more engaging discussions.
  • Context matters: Tailor your questions to the audience and the meeting’s objective. A relevant and timely question can spark a much more meaningful conversation.
  • Foster a safe environment: Ensure that the meeting space is one where all participants feel comfortable sharing their thoughts. This involves not just the questions asked but also how responses are received and discussed.

Crafting and utilising questions effectively requires practice and mindfulness. The goal is not to interrogate but to explore and engage collectively.

Implementing Question-centred Meetings

Integrating a question-driven approach into meetings can seem daunting at first, but with a structured plan, it becomes second nature. Here’s how to get started:

implementing question centred meetings

Training Your Team

Training your workforce to ask high-quality questions is a strategic investment.

Here’s why and how:

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Training in asking questions is not just about asking better questions; it’s about fostering a mindset of curiosity and openness to new ideas. By investing in such training, your leaders can play a crucial role in enhancing the overall quality of discourse within your organisation.

Revolutionising meetings with powerful questions isn’t just a skill—it’s an art that can transform the landscape of organisational communication. By embracing this approach, you can lead the charge in turning meetings from mundane to meaningful. This journey starts with a single question and leads to a culture where every voice matters, every idea is valued, and every meeting becomes an opportunity for growth and innovation. As we step into an era where the quality of questions defines the calibre of a meeting, let’s pledge to ask more, listen more, and discover the untapped potential in our dialogues.

Dr. Kavitha Murulitharan is the Practice Head of our Business Presentations practice.