When did you last have a great conversation at work? I’ve noticed that frustration and fatigue often arise from conversations and meetings that lack focus, that feel pointless, that lack purpose. It’s one of the main reasons why there is so much cynicism about meetings in organisations.
Now while different types of conversation are appropriate for different relationships and situations, questions that tease out purpose can be very powerful. They surface assumptions and create opportunity to discuss and agree on what would be worthwhile.
Here are some purpose-focused questions: Why are we here? What are we here to do? What would make this time useful? What is the goal we’re trying to achieve? What would a great outcome look and feel like? What do we want to be different by the end of this conversation?
We can use purpose-focused questions at the start of a meeting or mid-way through if we start to notice drift or confusion. ‘Let’s just remind ourselves what we’re here to do…where we’re trying to get to.’ Focusing and re-focusing can energise our conversations and achieve great results.
31/10/2015 11:59:49 am
Great insight as ever Nick. Most meetings I have attended over the years were wasted time because they did not have this degree of focus. Thanks for sharing.
1/11/2015 02:44:45 pm
Many thanks Ian. My sense is that meetings fulfil all kinds of subconscious and cultural purposes - albeit out of awareness or unspoken - and it sometimes takes courage and discipline to break the mould and sustain new patterns of behaviour. What do you think? All the best. Nick
2/11/2015 10:38:08 am
Nick, I believe that you are absolutely spot on with your comments. Unfortunately the meetings culture in many teams/organisations does not best serve the needs of the team/organisation in my opinion. Also, only rarely does anyone stop to consider this issue - although many moan about it. I worked with a guy at Cummins Diesel who calculated he spent 35% of his time in meetings. Of this, he estimated that 75% of them had little if any value to him. That meant that in a working week of 50 hours, he was spending 13 hours in unproductive activity!
7/11/2015 11:19:59 am
Hi Ian. Yes, I hear similar comments from many people in the organisations I work with. It's curious how many people complain about fruitless meetings yet take so little initiative to change that. A question I sometimes pose is, 'What is your contribution to what you are experiencing?' as a way of raising awareness and challenging greater personal leadership. Actually, one of my favourite questions is one I heard you pose when I first met you: 'Why this, why now?' OK...that's two questions! All the best. Nick
7/11/2015 12:06:18 pm
12/12/2015 09:41:49 am
By listening to the other person.
12/12/2015 09:44:16 am
Hi Samoine and thanks for the note. Yes, listening is very important. It helps us to understand what matters most to the other person. Disclosing what matters to is too can ensure the conversation is engaging and purposeful for both. All the best. Nick
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