Imagine you’re running a meeting with two cross-functional teammates: Chen is participating via video and Ava is sitting at the table across from you. As the meeting nears its end, you suddenly think to yourself: “I’m not sure my teammates are committed to our plan. They don’t seem focused, nor are they making our work a priority.”
If you’ve ever been in this situation, you’re not alone. We’ve observed many of leaders at all levels who recognize this numbing moment: The point where the avalanche of competing priorities buries the team, causing team members to lose focus, commitment, and thus begin to flatline.
First, what do many people do in the scenario described above when they sense a lack of engagement in teammates? With the best of intentions, they ask, “So, what do you think? We’re ready to go then, right?” To which Chen nods his head. (Or was that an interruption in the video feed?) And Ava lifts her eyes up from her smartphone and replies, “Sure.”
Chen, however, has already signed off; the screen is black. Ava smiles as she picks up her laptop, then puts her phone to her ear and begins a different conversation as she walks out the door. And the numbing gives way to flatlining; one more objective is heaped on top of countless others.
These questions are essential for great execution. And, they’re normal: Everyone is asking them everywhere. And that’s the point. Meeting after meeting, day after day, with functional plans conflicting with the objectives of other teams…few can sustain the repetitive, low-conscious thinking being required of them. And this doesn’t even include adding the stress in the lives of each teammate outside the workplace. Kids, spouses we’d like to see at least once in a while, aging parents—it is no mystery why people go numb. There should be little question why in the normal meeting people tune out and the team flatlines.
We’ve found something consistent in the 39 countries we’ve worked in: People want to think at higher levels. They want to be inspired. They want to break free from the mundane. And while people recognize the following five categories of questions that mobilize hearts and minds, they also agree that they’re not asking them enough. Not even close.
5 Classes of Questions that Trigger Hearts and Minds
These five classes of questions make people think in ways they often don’t get to during a typical day. This means that using these questions isn’t normal. But if what’s normal is seeing too many teams flatline due to the pressure of endless and competing priorities, why keep doing the same thing? By asking these types of questions, you mobilize hearts and minds, which causes a higher level of consciousness among the team. This is how you make sure your team crosses the finish line: mobilize hearts and minds.