Do you ever wonder why your team meetings are filled with an awkward air of tension? My best guess is that there’s somebody in the room who’s holding their tongue, biting back their opinion, or feeling like they’ve been misunderstood. Nothing kills progress like lack of clarity.
So how can you make sure that your next project is successful?
Ask the obvious questions. No, really — the questions that you think are going to make you sound stupid — ask those questions.
A little humility can go a long way. By asking people if what you’ve said makes sense and bringing others into the conversation, you’re giving people a chance to clear the air. Getting everyone on the same page is the easiest way to avoid misunderstandings and eliminate tension.
Once you’ve outlined a project’s goals and divvied up responsibilities, take the time to ferret out confusion.
- Repeat deadlines and make sure everyone buys into the timeline
- Repeat what the deliverables will be, make a list
- Repeat who is responsible for what
- Give the entire team permission to call you on your bullshit
- Remind everyone (if it applies) that this is the first time, so you expect there might be questions along the way
- Ask folks how they plan to keep track of their workload and how you can help
If you sense confusion or frustration, ask about it. Saying stuff like “I might overthinking things, but are there wrinkles you might be seeing that I can iron out before we wrap up this meeting?” will actually open the door for an honest conversation.
One final thought…
Don’t call people out unless you’ve already got a foundation of trust.
If you can avoid singling people out, go for it. Holding people accountable is a delicate balancing act—dig deep and make sure you approach touchy subjects tactfully. It’s a good idea to identify people you might need to follow up with personally. People hate to be put on the spot in front of their peers, especially if they feel it’s undeserved.
Dumb questions aren’t dumb. They can surface issues before they become show-stoppers, and are a useful tactic for keeping the lines of communication open on your team. Failure isn’t necessarily bad, but failing because of something that is within your control is the worst kind.
Set your team up for success. Dumb questions, smart move.