My team meeting is crucial. I get everyone in a room and get everything I need out of them — with the added bonus of the team getting in sync, right? Wrong. Turns out, managers are blind to how crucial that meeting is to others. Only 4–9% of problems are known to managers… *gulp*
That’s one of the reasons we built the SoapBox bot — a bot to help people have more productive one-on-ones and team meetings. The reaction has been staggering: Managers from over 1000 of the best companies in the world (Adobe, Intercom, Wayfair, etc…) are now using it with their teams.
One of the features people love most is our bot’s Question Suggester — if they’re stuck for content, it suggests some battle-tested questions.
I dug into the data to see which questions got the most traction for team meetings. So, here are the top 10 as judged by real-life managers!
1 What’s our biggest challenge as a team?
No surprise that when the bot suggests this question to managers they immediately add it to their next agenda. It’s our #1 most added question for team meetings.
What we’re getting at with this question is what I mentioned earlier, managers only know 4-9% of problems their employees are facing. Also known as the iceberg of ignorance, which states, “Only 4% of an organization’s front-line problems are known by top management, 9% are known by middle management, 74% by supervisors and 100% by employees…”
2 Do you feel you’re getting enough feedback on your work? If not, where would you like more feedback?
Can both of these be possible? Yes, but your team needs a culture where they invite feedback. If they’re not inviting it, then you’ll need to force it… so give them room to invite it as often as they can.
3 When’s the best time to give feedback on your work?
Ideally the invitation for feedback falls on them, otherwise you’ll be giving the right feedback at the wrong time. In that case your feedback will come across as criticism which our brains view as a threat to our survival. 😱
4 What information could I bring you that would help our team perform better? 👌
Turns out only 14% of employees understand their company’s strategy and direction. First things first, make sure you constantly keep your team up to date on that — then open up the floor.
Are you a part of the 86% that doesn’t get it? That’s ok. Get the team to write down their questions in advance and go get the answers. This pays off.
5 What are the biggest blockers affecting us from performing to our fullest?
To me one of the biggest tools at a managers disposal is leverage. If we can remove one step in a process that wastes the team’s time, then the productivity gains can be massive. Brad Feld calls this the 2% change.
This question gets at the heart of finding some of that 2 %.
6 How can I better support you?
I find this question and #5 are circling around the same issue: What can the manager do differently to improve the team’s productivity? While in the previous case it was about removing anything slowing the team down, this question gets a little more personal. Don’t expect people to open up immediately… let the conversation flow for a bit.
Hearing crickets? That’s the time to be vulnerable.
7 As a team, is there anything we should START doing?
This is an obvious one if you’ve ever heard of the start, stop, continue team retrospective technique. Most people overcomplicate this into oblivion… just ask your team if there is anything we should start doing (or try doing).
This invites time for your team to get out their internal F.U.D. + frustrations.
8 What was a win that you had last week?
Teams learn at a higher rate when they focus on learnings from success as well as their failures. It helps develop richer mental models of their jobs.
9 As a team, is there anything we should STOP doing?
The other 33.3% of the start, stop, continue team retrospective technique. What I like best about STOP, is that you don’t need any budget or unplanned work to get a win here.
10 🎉 Who deserves a shoutout? What did they do?
78% of employees said they would work harder if they were being recognized for their work. You want to know a pretty easy way to get people to work harder? Have a recurring topic on your team meeting for peer-to-peer shoutouts. Sometimes they might even shout you out… feels good eh?
Bonus! The #1 avoided suggested question:
“What can we do to improve our office environment?”
Why do they avoid it? Here’s my best guess: While there are tons of articles spouting mumbo-jumbo like best way to increase productivity and workplace happiness is office design. The truth is the office environment doesn’t do a whole lot.
Office space is additive to the experience, but not the difference maker at work. Think of it like this: You could have the best office in the world, 5 star chefs, puppies, and pinball machines… but if you have a bad manager then it doesn’t matter. Work will suck. Sundays will be stressful. Mondays will be the worst.
My suggestion? Focus on asking questions that are the difference at work. Things like how you can improve collaboration, productivity, and recognition within your team. The office might suck but at least your team will be awesome.
PS: If you’d like to try out getting more organized for your team meetings and try out the question-suggester for yourself, you can do so here. It’s free! Forever! Or: