10 easy questions to break the silence

What do you do about the awkward silence when nobody asks a question during one of those endless “death by PowerPoint” or “status update” meetings/conference calls?

You have 2 options: the fun but unproductive option or the “I want to get something out of this” option. I choose the 2nd option because I am curious and need to learn something new every day. Further below will share  a list of 11 question with you that work really well for me.

So, what are people doing during those meetings and calls? Chances are they are not listening…This HBR article made me think about the productivity of meetings…especially since we have a lot more remote and agile working with distributed teams.

Intercall stat

If you decide on the fun but unproductive option here are some more ideas what you can do: 22 things to do during the boring conference call or 19 things to do during that boring meeting.

I believe that the only way to get something valuable out of them is to ask questions. It has many positive side effects: you gain respect, build teams, are seen as a person adding value…). I don’t want to discuss restructuring meetings to make them more effective or not attending meetings in the first place or how to run meetings efficiently. Sometimes you have no choice but to attend those “boring” meetings.

Here is a list of questions that work well for me:

  1. “What assumptions did you make?”
  2. If a task seems too big: “What’s the first step?”
  3. “What is the next step?”
  4. In case of “Talk, talk, talk……still talking….still going on”: “You explained a lot – now
    1. what’s your question?
    2. what’s the point you are trying to make?”
  5. This is always my last question in my 1:1 meetings: “Is there anything I can do for you?”
  6. After answering someone’s question: “Does this answer your question?”
  7. “Why are we doing this? What is the benefit?”
  8. “How is this supporting our strategy?”
  9. If someone offers you only opinions: “What facts do we have to support this?”
  10. If there are plenty of diverse suggestions: “What’s the problem we are trying to solve?”
  11. If you hear about frustration: “What stops you most from making progress?”

Let me know what’s on your list!

This is what I learned during day 4 of my experiment in which I want to explore ways to improve my skill to ask questions. This week I already found the secret ingredient to asking questions and 3 simple ways to get people to tell you exactly what you want. Looking forward to learning something new tomorrow….

My question statistics (compare to the number of questions asked per day by a child = 300). Day 1 = 105, day 2 = 85, day 3 = 110, day 4 = 45.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s