On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the usefulness of your team’s meetings?

I spend most of my time in meetings with executives. Many things don’t surprise me anymore about these groups. I expect stressed out people. I expect hurry and distraction. I expect way-too-long powerpoint decks with far-too-much text on each slide.

Once it’s time for discussion, I expect the group to talk and talk and talk. One person makes a point. Another other person replies, like two tennis players whacking a ball across the net.

Participants get increasingly frustrated and impatient, often trying desperately to get a word in edgewise. Perversely, some are told off-line that they need to be more forceful, to elbow their way into the free-for-all so that they aren’t seen as a pushover.

Eventually, the group is saved by the bell. The meeting’s allotted time is up so participants can vaporize from the Zoom Room or stumble to the next meeting.

But don’t think for a second that they walk away unified or energized for action. They’re just glad it’s over.

Here’s what’s missing from almost every leadership team meeting I observe: thoughtful, intelligent questions. That’s a shame because one well-shaped and well-placed question can change the whole direction of the conversation.

Pros know this. They know that asking a question is how you make curiosity useful. They know that skillful questions help communicate to others, “I want to hear you. I want to understand you.” It’s one more way to show you have their back.

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