It is a dangerous question when attempting to close a meeting – yet, it may be the most common method.
- The cynic or resistor-of-change loves the “are-there-any-questions?” probe. It provides them the opportunity to stop progress, by replying with a question that can’t be answered in the few minutes that remain. Which means: You need another meeting to answer the new question.
- Shy or less experienced teammates despise the question. Of course, they have questions! But what fool would speak up in front of their peers and announce that they don’t understand the plan? It’s better to keep your mouth shut…and use the valuable time of teammates post-meeting to survey for knowledge.
- The “think-out-loud” teammates relish the “are-there-any-questions?” question. These are the few, well-intentioned colleagues who use most of the oxygen in the meeting. As they process their thoughts in lengthy prose, productivity goes up: Because everyone else starts multi-tasking and getting other work done. Which means you’ve just lost focus and alignment – and need to call another meeting.
Here are substitute questions to ask 10 minutes before the end of a better meeting:
- What is the one thing we must do to accelerate or simplify the execution of our plan?
- On what aspect of our plan would you like to zoom in, so we have a shared understanding?
- What brief words do you have to express about our plan that would be valuable for all of us to hear?
- We’re moving forward. What final advice do you have for us all?
Asking “Are there any questions?” is like unfolding a large map and asking a traveler, “Where do you want to go?” Because you’re leading the meeting you already know where you want to go: Ask the question that gets us there sooner and with greater outcomes.