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Ask Your Team “What Are You Stuck On?”

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Team meetings often feel drained. But what if they speed up the progress they’ve always held back? Managers can take a page from the startup world, where “mastermind meetings” are all the rage. Entrepreneurs often sign five-figure checks for the privilege of joining other founders and answering one question – what’s holding you back? — in front of an audience of their peers. The benefits of asking this question include: reduced procrastination, greater resilience, greater confidence, less “coasting,” and increased growth.

When was the last time you left a work meeting feeling motivated, inspired, or motivated? If you’re like most people, the answer is rarely.

Team meetings, in particular, suffer from a terrible reputation. They are considered unproductive, unnecessary, tiring, disorganized, and stressful. Worse, they are eat up precious timekeep us from moving the needle on important projects, and leave us wondering why we can’t seem to get anything done during regular work hours.

We all hate meetings. But what if we don’t? What if the meetings accelerated the progress they are currently holding back?

Not all meetings are frowned upon by everyone. Some are highly coveted, such as in the world of startups, where “mastermind meetings” are all the rage. Entrepreneurs often sign five-figure checks for the privilege of joining other founders and answering a question in front of an audience of their peers.

The question is: What are you holding back?

Naming your biggest obstacle to a room full of strangers might not strike you as a particularly appealing proposition. But many founders see it differently. They see these so-called “hot seats,” as an opportunity to gain insight into major obstacles and identify solutions that they would not have thought to work on alone.

This is a question smart leaders would do well to include in team meetings. Doing so introduces a collaborative forum for creative problem solving, and provides several compelling benefits:

Procrastination is reduced

Knowing the question to ask prompts your team to self-reflect before each meeting. It’s an invitation to step back and think hard about what they’re really trying to achieve, as well as the obstacles that stand in the way.

That level of clarity is rare, especially when it comes to obstacles. A major reason people procrastinate at work is that they are not clear on how to proceed with a project. Lack of clarity makes us uncomfortable, and that discomfort is something we seek to avoid, often by immersing ourselves in distractions. By inviting team members to focus and publicly share an obstacle, leaders eliminate procrastination before it’s done.

Stronger Strength

Posting the question “angry” communicates that feeling challenged is not an experience to hide or fear. Expected.

That perspective is useful because it develops resilience. It is easier to cope with adversity when we expect to be tested. On the contrary, when struggle comes unexpectedly, it shakes our confidence and leads us to doubt our abilities.

Great Confidence

After each teammate answers the “answer” question, there’s an opportunity for their teammates to provide input – allowing teammates to teach each other, leverage each other’s strengths, and find what’s missing still applicable skills. It’s a practice that organically nurtures greater collaboration.

Being honest and forthright about our challenges also fosters a more open dialogue between partners, which facilitates the experience of psychological safety. In other words, not only does it make more progress on key projects, it also creates tighter teams.

Revealed “Coasting”

What happens when a team member says they are not being held back? Often, nothing to report is an indication that something is wrong. Maybe the employee doesn’t feel overwhelmed, or they don’t want to share. In either case, it’s worth having a one-on-one conversation to dig deeper. Engagement comes from stretching, not passing. The “angry” question helps leaders ensure that everyone on their team grows.

Rapid Development

Spanx founder Sara Blakely famously shared a question her father asked her at the dinner table, back when she was growing up: “What failed you today?” If Blakely or his siblings have nothing to report, his dad looks angry. He wishes they would appreciate that failure, though painful in the short term, is essential to achieving long-term success.

While Blakely’s question has value, the word “failure” carries a stigma that makes it difficult to implement in the workplace. In contrast, feeling “stuck” expresses a similar experience with less shame. It offers leaders a tool for communicating that pushing yourself and finding your limits is what you want, without coming across as preachy or out of touch.

. . .

Team meetings don’t have to feel boring. Instead of robbing us of time, energy, and focus, they can do the opposite: Accelerate our progress, bring us closer to our team, and empower us to achieve more. As with any good solution, the secret to better meetings lies in asking the right question first.

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