Wednesday, September 22, 2010

15 Questions to Shake up Your Next Team Meeting or 1on1

Are your team meetings, project meetings, or 1on1s with your employees getting too dull and predictable? Are they lacking energy or new ideas? Are you looking to get your employees to think, open up, and inspire a little creativity and out-of-the-box problem solving? Are people hesitant to bring up problems? Are you getting blank stares when you ask for improvement ideas?

Maybe you’re not asking the right questions. Uninspired questions lead to uninspired answers.

Give these a try, from the 1997 book by Dick Whitney and Melissa Giovagnoli,
75 Cage-Rattling Questions (to change the way you work):

1. What would our company/team be like if your mother ran it?

2. You’ve just received $10 million to help our company grow and prosper; how would you spend it?

3. What would appear bizarre, shocking, or amazing to a Martian visiting you at work?

4. What would our company be like if you never worked here?

5. What incredible invention would make your job much easier and you much more productive?

6. What unwritten rules at work make it difficult to get things done quickly, efficiently, or profitably?

7. Why and when does our organization make you feel that the information you need is top secret and you’re a poor security risk?

8. What’s your idea of a utopian workplace?

9. If our company was a football team, what would be our strongest and weakest positions?

10. If you could trade work skills the way kids swap baseball cards, who would you trade with and for what skills?

11. If Hollywood made a movie based on our organization, what would be the plot? Which stars would you cast as the heroes and villains?

12. If your crystal ball told you our products and services would be obsolete in the next 5 years, how would you react?

13. What is the most likely reason someone would want to join our company; what is the most likely reason someone would leave it?

14. You (or your department) are under an evil spell cast by a witch; who is the witch, what is the spell, and what words were uttered to cast it?

15. Pretend our organization is an organized religion. What are the core beliefs? What constitutes a sin?

Disclaimer: Please only ask these questions if you are truly committed to listening non-defensively and making improvements. They are designed to get people to open up in a way that they normally would not. If you come across as offended or shocked at what people say, or try to convince them their answers are “wrong”, the next thing you’ll hear is the sound of crickets chirping in a silent room.

If you can handle the truth and have the courage to shake it up, then fire away and get ready for some lively discussion!

Here's one final question for you:

What other questions could we add to the list?


Gina said...

Great questions. I would love to have these conversations with many on our team. Would make for some amazing dialog.

Patrick said...

Are you happy in your company?
Are you exciting about what you are doing?
Can you do more contribution for your company?
If yes, how could you contribute for your company?

Dan McCarthy said...

Gina -
Great, glad you liked them.

Patrick -

WS said...

How would your spouse/partner describe the company's culture?

Unknown said...

Dan, I really enjoyed your questions. Once a month our company has a meeting and I was totally feeling the same thing you are describing. The meetings were becoming stagnant and mundane. It felt like we were having the same meeting over and over again. I think at our next meeting I am going to bring some of these questions up to help stir the pot. I want us to be inspired and perhaps come up with new ways of approaching things. I really love getting an opportunity for growth so I appreciate any new information I can get. I am going to try and apply these questions and ideas to our next meeting. Thanks again!

Carina Funk said...

Great Blog Dan!

It's amazing how so many of these questions have the potential to grab people's attention and make them really think about their role in a company. People often seem to forget that they are part of a bigger picture in which their attitudes, thoughts, and visions can control the things that are going on around them. These questions bring up some great discussion points as well as personal reflection topics.

Thanks! Carina

Julie-Ann said...

You are so right. Engaging employees is essential for building a company that works. From the nuts and bolts of the operation to customer service, the more “ownership” employees take in what they do, the better off a company is likely to be. Getting them to think and share their input, as this article ( also suggests is key to success.

Dan McCarthy said...

xkt -
Great questions! thanks

Amber -
Good luck with it. I'm sure you're prepare your team, so the questions don't just come at them out of the blue.

Carina -
Good point, they can be used just for personal reflection as well, or conversation starters with a fellow employee over lunch.

Julie-Ann -

Dan Zaccagnino said...

This style of thinking outside-the-box can really open up people's imagination and inspire individuals. I like how you incorporated sports into the questions (like the football team approach). I think that if people would ask the same type of open ended questions but include their favorite topic/hobbies as the central theme then co-workers could really express themselves better and relate more to the topic of discussion.

Dan McCarthy said...

Dan -
Thanks, that might work too.

Jeffrey Thomas said...

Great list of questions. As I went down the list I began to apply the questions to my company and past companies I had worked for. Some of the thoughts I had were fairly surprising.

Kelly Fryer said...

There must be something in the air today! I just finished a webinar on how to "make meetings matter" and posted an article called "5 clues that your meetings suck" on our blog.

Your questions are fantastic and I've posted a link to your blog post on our facebook page. Thanks for this!

Dan McCarthy said...

Jeffrey -

Kelly -
oh oh, it's that bad meeting smell.

Anonymous said...

Great questions, thank you.

This created some great conversation and allowed my managers to take ownership of certain topics.