Ask These 3 Questions to Power-Up Your Meetings


Team meetings can be inspirational, productive and even fun. Seriously.

While a recent Inc Magazine article reported data that 46% of people would rather do nearly anything other than have a team meeting -- with 8% specifically preferring a root canal to team meetings -- I believe it's not the meeting itself to blame, but rather the leaders behind them for settling for lame meeting after lame meeting.

And believe me, I've run my share of lame, boring meetings.

But finally, after lots of trial and error, I've stumbled upon a formula that seems to work.

In our team meetings with Reach for Change, Sweden, we have three standing questions that each teammate answers. The total time invested is about 10 minutes per meeting with the benefits lasting far beyond the moment we close our laptops and leave the room.

Rather than accepting stale, vapid and mind-numbing meetings as a way of life, consider adding in these three questions to transform a meeting into an hour of team building, professional growth, and value reinforcement.

1. What was your win of the week?

Each teammate shares something they did in the last week which helped us move closer towards achieving our goals. It could be a small victory -- a new insight, a well-received email -- or a huge one -- a deal closed, a new partnership established. It doesn't matter. What does matter is making sure we take the time away from the head-down hyper-hustle of startup-life to celebrate each of our contributions and to recognize that we all play a role in our organization's growth and achievements.

2. What was your fail of the week -- and what did you learn from it?

"It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default." -- J.K. Rowling

It's very en vogue today to purport to 'celebrate failure.' And in fact we claim it as one of our core team values. But it doesn't mean anything unless our values are constantly backed up our actions. Here's how we do it.

Each teammate takes turns sharing a way in which they failed this past week and what they learned from it. To be clear, we aren't celebrating failing for the sake of failing, or failures such as "I turned in a truly unacceptable final product to a client," but rather failures that come as the result of trying and testing and pushing and growing.

Ron Ashkenas does a nice job in this Harvard Business Review article clarifying the distinction between failures which are truly harmful and failures which are the catalysts for learning. By adding the second part of the question -- focusing on the learning which comes (and often can only come) from failure, we seek to reinforce the value of trying new things, being brave enough to fail, and being braver still to openly share grow from these lessons. The added benefit is that this ritual also reinforces a shared value of vulnerability so that we can grow both individually and as a team.

By removing the stigma from failure, and instead making it an expected part of each and every role on the team, it frees us up to innovate and to try, and then to share our learnings from setbacks so that we can all grow together.

3. What should we hold you accountable for?

From support groups to running clubs, having an accountability partner is one of the most effective ways to make sure you stay on track with your goals.

Before wrapping up our meeting, each teammate shares what they would like the team to hold them accountable for accomplishing before our next meeting. This has three positive impacts:

  • It gives each teammate insight into what the other's priorities are for the week ahead;
  • It empowers each teammate to publicly declare and take ownership over their essential challenges and goals;
  • It gives each teammate a role in supporting their colleagues in following-through on their stated goals.

So, can I hold you accountable for giving these questions a try? The worst that will happen is that they will fail and you can share that as a lesson learned. And at best, you may even have a new win to celebrate!