Are you asking the right questions in your meetings?

by todaystrainingblog

Dull & boring meetings are usually the bane of our business existence. They usually are great time wasters and, unfortunately, not much usually gets accomplished. And when it’s over everyone is thinking about a dream sequence in a movie “What the hell just happened?”

The key element, if not the main and only one, in any meeting is too learn about the issue/problem, present solutions for it, and then hopefully solve those problems. And if you are the facilitator in a meeting with either subordinates or other managers then you have to keep it on-track to ensure that it is productive.

The best way to accomplish this is to ask questions and also actively pursue the other participants to also ask or answer their own or others questions, using the Socratic method. That may sound a bit unusual, but it does work. The only issue is… asking the right questions of the participants.

The absolute first thing you need to establish is the intelligence level of your audience. If they are dull and plodding, communistic managers, with no creativity or original thoughts, then you may already be lost. On the other hand if you have a room full of Steve Jobs & Mark Zuckerberg’s then you may have an overabundance of people asking thought provoking questions, which could lead to over-thinking the problem to be solved.

Asking the right, and pulling the best, questions of the people in the room can either make or break the meeting. It can therefore lead to further success for both you & for the project, or the issue being described as a failure, which probably won’t do any of your careers any good. And the issue gets shuffled off to someone or somewhere else.

The issue with many meeting, and the authoritarian styles of management, is that they discourage questions and open engagement of the attendees. The decision for the meeting has already been made before they ever started. And the facilitator is not looking for 2nd opinions.

If the meeting is truly open ended and asking for solutions to the issue at hand then you need to not be embarrassed to ask your question. If you don’t understand something completely or if you don’t get it, ask! The fear of being judged as incompetent for asking will stop many people. In a group setting, other people have the same question. You can ask for all those who won’t, or who are scared to.

When you do decide to speak up and ask that question, then you must ensure that it follows the rule of being an educational question. Judgment questions are also acceptable in certain contexts. While it’s natural for both to be asked, educational questions are essential to facilitate results. Here are the differences between educational & judgement questions;


Educational questions will:

Focus on solutions

Will propose solutions

May be creative and out-of-the-box




Allows for the discussion of the proposed solutions by anyone


Those that are judgement questions are:

Much more negative

Focuses on problems that the issue has brought forth and that the solution may bring up,

Proposing solutions in a negative way instead of presenting them positively

Relies on ego

Argumentative on a proposed solution

Doesn’t give others a chance to present their solutions without shooting it down before fully explored


This is only a short list of the kinds of questions that should be asked. Remember that both kinds of questions can and should be asked. But as the meeting facilitator it is up to you to keep the meeting in line and on target. That may not be the easiest thing to do when you have differing opinions along with old dogs that refuse to learn new tricks.

Meetings can be used as a way for people to socialize and get away from work – to waste time. So how do you keep it on target? Fairly simple, I believe. If the conversation begins to wander off target steer it back to the original intention of the meeting. If you have to start at the beginning again, then… This will get their attention and get their minds focused back on the original issue. As the facilitator you need to ask open ended questions and have them think about their answers, much like you should train your employees or clients.

Asking open ended questions of the attendees will force them to think about the issue at hand and not wander off target. And if they insist on socializing, then simply ask “how does going out to dinner with the wife solve this problem of security…?” That will get their attention and possibly solicit a laugh which can also get your train back on the right track.

Treat your meetings as a training session and use the educational and judgement questions above to lead you and your team to a solution that hopefully will benefit everyone in the organization. And not all of your meetings need to be dull, plodding, & boring. Make them positive team building events and you’ll get much better engagement & solutions.


Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on security issues, specifically workplace violence. He’s spent nearly 33 years in the security field. Contact him at 480-251-5197 or Visit his Facebook page, one is too Many. Here you will read about other items related to security & WPV issues. Or be a twitter follower at @robertsollars2.

I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear