Most leaders I work with spend most of their days racing from one meeting to another without a break in between, carrying their thoughts and emotional response to one meeting, straight into the next. While some leaders have learned the art of consciously taking a breath and pausing for a moment to think about the purpose of the next meeting and their intention for that meeting, many do not. Consequently, it’s not uncommon to find yourself sitting with a group of people whose focus and energy is all over the place depending on what has happened earlier in the day.
As a leader, (both formal and informal) one of the most powerful things you can do is shift and refocus the energy of the group to one that will best serve the purpose of the meeting. You may not know you even need to ask a question until everyone sits down and you can feel the low or negative energy of the group. Sometimes there’s a very clear shift required, other times you just want to shake things up a bit. By asking a specific question and setting up a simple process for answering, the group will naturally shift their energy, creating an environment for a far more effective meeting.
The question will vary depending on the focus or energy you want to create. For example:
Energy: Relaxed/ light / collegiate /energised: Q: What has made you laugh the loudest in the last week? or What has brought you joy in the last few days? (I use this one the most and it absolutely works!)
Positive / achievement: What’s something you’ve done that you’re most proud of?
Confidence: What ability do you appreciate that you have?
Can do/ Resilience: What challenge big or small have you overcome this year?
Innovative: What’s the craziest idea you’ve had in the last 6 months? or What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken in the last year?
Reflective / positive: What’s something, big or small, that you are grateful for?
Openness / collegiate: What’s something that no one in the room would know about you?
- The leader of the team, group or meeting asks an open question (so you can’t get a yes/no answer).
- Give people a moment to think of their response.
- Set the time frame for the response eg. ‘you have 1 minute only’ ’20 seconds response’ or ‘2 sentences only’, to keep it short and sharp.
- Ask for a volunteer to start then move around the room.
- Remind the group not to interrupt or comment, simply listen to their colleague’s answer (for some this is easier said than done so you may need to remind them!).
Now I’m sure many of you are thinking, ‘that’s all very nice in theory but I don’t talk like that or ask those kinds of questions. That’s not my style’. The trick is to just do it. Tell them you’re going to ask a different kind of question just to start off the session. Don’t get caught up in second guessing yourself. I’ve done this a hundred times and I know it works.
Ask the question, listen and notice what happens……….
5-10 people sitting around a table talking briefly about what made them laugh, or what they’re grateful for, their proudest achievement or challenge they have overcome has to change the energy in the room!