Want a Productive Meeting ? Ask these Productive Questions

Picture this. A team-meeting where just one person is speaking, setting the agenda, explaining the tasks, and the others just nod their way through the meeting, only to realise much later that they aren’t clear about a key concern.

Take this other scenario. Again, a team-meeting, and someone who isn’t in a habit of conducting meetings is doing so now. A barrage of questions would overwhelm this new person, but just the right amount could potentially help them get a cue about how they are doing the job thus helping them ease into the meeting. It can also tell them how effectively have they communicated and what they can keep in mind in future meetings.

Asking questions is almost like an art. When asked at the right time, to the right person, in the right manner can lead to fruitful discussions, integration of unique perspectives leading to innovation, filling gaps and loopholes leading to the outcomes actually desired.

This art is seen in interviews, but it can also be utilised in meetings, brainstorming sessions and important decision-making discussions.

Let us take a look at some strategies to ask better questions so that team-meetings can actually include perspectives of team-members, and brainstorming sessions don’t end up becoming storms to run away from!

The Nuance of ‘Why’:

Contrary to what is obvious, ‘why’ is actually not a question that can lead to many fruitful discussions; at least not always. Have we not had times when a sudden ‘why’ rendered us questioning the whole point of our agenda? It could often shut us down and demoralise.

As Amy Drader writes in a blog for growthpartnersconsulting.com, ‘why’ can actually make the person asked get defensive. It often requires them to look into the past and justify a key decision. Necessary at certain times, at other times, it can drive the discussion away from the solution and more to the problem itself.

So, asking a ‘why’ demands a lot more prudence about how one frames or phrases it.


The key then is to ask questions which elicit answers that lead one to think in a direction they might not have. To lead one to offer their perspective. To clarify, to specify. Because let us face it, speakers could forget key details in the rush to get done with the meeting, and thus the onus lies on the others listening to ask the right questions and get all the details clearly laid out.

Open-ended questions, generally but not always begin with a ‘what’, ‘how’ and sometimes ‘who’. Some examples provided by the blog cited above include questions like:

  • How do we move forward?
  • What is the important thing to do here, and what is that can wait for later?
  • What do you think is the best option?
  • What are some things expected from us?
  • What can we expect this to achieve?
  • What are we trying to accomplish here?
  • What seems to be the best practice/alternative/strategy?
  • How has this been done in the past and how can we do it better?
  • Who are the key persons with what sort of roles in this?
  • What impact is this likely make?

And so on.

Note how most of these questions are likely to elicit a discussion, invite some perspectives, clarify a few things and provide the specifics. For the speaker too, it is not a bad idea to ask questions like these to individual members. A question as simple as ‘what do you think about…’ followed by questions on a similar tangent as mentioned above can encourage the listeners put their point forward.

Listening Skills:

However, great questions will not mean anything if we don’t listen to the responses and not help taking the meeting in the right direction. While asking questions should be an important part of any meeting, it should not become a hindrance to the agenda.

Thus, it is important that the questions are asked with an intention to:

  • Get clarity about the agenda
  • To prevent taking unnecessary long detours
  • Avoiding potential loopholes and filling gaps
  • Make sure the speaker isn’t missing out on any key detail

And not with an intention to:

  • Provide opinions that don’t directly concern the agenda
  • Waste time
  • Assert power to fuel in office politics

While open-ended questions work great, there will be times when a simple yes or no shall be enough to provide the necessary clarity. At such times, it is best to let the meeting move forward and not try to come up with further questions just for the sake of coming up questions. The key is to ask questions that facilitate the movement of the meeting.  

Be the Perfect Manager…In One Minute


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The One Minute Manager is a very popular book Ken Blanchard. In the book, we have the journey of a young man who is looking for and willing to work for the “perfect manager”. He finds autocratic managers, the ones who only care about results and not people, and democratic ones who only care about people and not results: two extremes. He finally comes across someone who calls himself a ‘one minute manager’. The one minute manager delivers big results in a span of one minute.

Now, you need to read the book to actually discover the tips he offers, but there are some brief takeaways which we would like to list out.

Whether you are an actual manager or just good co-worker trying to motivate his or her colleagues, we offer some ‘one minute manager’ hacks!

Remember those ‘one minute games’ we all have played at some point? Those competitions where you must finish a task in just one minute, whether it is eating as many gol-gappas as you can or lighting as many candles as you can! Remember the thrill that comes with those games? The sudden gust of motivation and energy?

Well, the following one minute tasks can provide equal, if not more, motivation and energy in the office environment to get things done.


  • One Minute Goals: These ‘goals’ have to be ones which could be completed in around a minute. We often delay smaller things for later, piling them up, and ending up with a big pile of smaller tasks. Setting one minute goals is great way to get work done quickly. They end quickly, so there you have a quick dose of motivation too!

Think of all the smaller tasks which could be completed in one minute and set out to finish them. It could be anything from writing out a to-do list to making a quick call to that client.

  • One Minute Praises: Sometimes, all one needs is a quick “good job!” to feel motivated and actually get to work. Instead of waiting to include something in appraisals or weekly meetings, sometimes it’s a good idea to deliver praise just by-the-way.
  • One Minute Feedback: Similarly, sometimes, people want to know how they are doing at the moment. They need to know what wrong they are doing in terms of action, outcomes or decisions, and what they could do undo that wrong, immediately, instead of hearing about the problem in some meeting when they have already forgotten what the problem was in the first place.

This brings us to the next one minute hack.

  • One Minute Catch ups: Little one minute catch ups, where there’s a quick briefing of how a team is going on with a task are a quick way to ensure there’s an equally quick course correction. One minute catch ups allow one to figure out smaller problems which could be stopped from turning into bigger problems there and then.
  • One Minute Connection: Setting aside a special day to “connect” with employees and colleagues is great, to give them space to talk about their life beyond work, but sometimes a quick personal catch up is not a bad idea. It gives one the feeling that people do remember about their life, that people do care, which can be a great booster of motivation.


So, being a one minute manager, or to make it more general, one minute action taker is a great way to ensure a steady momentum of work. But make sure to not lose the bigger picture! One minute managing needs a fine balance (like all other things). We need to be tactful:

We take out a minute to deliver bigger results with ease. We don’t take out a minute to delay bigger results. Make sure the one minute managing adds to the flow of work, and doesn’t act as an interruption.



The Pomodoro Technique: How to Use it To Optimise Productivity

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Are you the kind of person who needs a deadline to finish a task? We have all been there, when we waited for the night before the due date to start working on our homework, when we started studying the night before an exam, when we added a finishing touch to a slide just a few hours before the presentation. Do you like to work under that “pressure“, which is not really pressure per se but a thing that peps you up? The Pomodoro Technique might work for you!


What is the Pomodoro technique?

It is a time management technique devised by an Italian man named Francesco Cirillo, in the 1980s.

It works along the following lines:

  • Decide upon the task.
  • Set up a timer for 25 minutes.
  • Work on the task with as much focus as you can for those 25 minutes.
  • When the timer ends, take a break for 2-3 minutes, and also make a note about that chunk of task you did.
  • If the task remains unfinished, reset the timer to 25 minutes, and repeat the process for three more times before taking a longer break of 15-20 minutes.

Basically, you work with full concentration for approximately 25 minutes, take a 2-3 minutes break, and repeat. If the task is likely to go on, take a 15-20 minute break after 4 such rounds.


The name of the technique has a somewhat idiosyncratic, but interesting origin story. The word “pomodoro” is Italian for “tomato”. Cirillo worked using a tomato shaped timer, and hence the name. One set of 25 minutes is called one pomodoro.

A timer is thus an important requirement. Of course, you don’t need to work with a tomato shaped timer. Any timer would do. (Although, working with a tomato shaped timer does sound fun…)



  • As it is evident, the Pomodoro Technique is the way to go for people who love to work with deadlines, and those who would otherwise procrastinate until the last minute.
  • The constant ticking of the timer can boost you to actually finish the task. Haven’t we all worked almost miraculously fast when we have a flight to catch?
  • The division in chunks, and the 2-3 minute break can help us work mindfully. The small breather is just what one needs to not over-work.
  • Plus, there is the longer 15-20 break which can aid you to refresh your mind in between your “work” time. This can boost creativity, problem solving and strategising.
  • The Pomodoro Technique is great if you want to add a sense of rhythm to your to-do list or an overall bigger task
  • Due to the timer and the chunking, the technique can help one accomplish a seemingly humongous task, the kind of task when we aren’t sure where we should begin from.


Not that there aren’t any problems…

  • For people who like to work at their own pace, this method can put unnecessary pressure. It can actually divert the attention from the task to the ticking timer. The pro becomes the con.
  • The method is pretty good for administrative and managerial tasks, and tasks involving paperwork. It might not work too well where there is a need for undivided attention, like research, analyses, mathematical tasks, etc.
  • The 25 minutes should ideally be uninterrupted. But in a much more realistic sense, can we expect that? Phones, emails, faxes are common “interruptions” in an office. Imagine you have just got into the “zone” and as you are beginning to catch your rhythm, you get an important client’s phone call.

The method thus isn’t too ideal for multi-tasking.


As many critics of the method  point out, does one really need a timer to pay attention to a task one is trained to do? Of course, the answer could be that it depends from person to person. The debate goes on.

But, the Pomodoro Technique can come in handy when you are looking for the pace to pick up. So, are you ready to compete…with the timer?

Success And Productivity Are Closely Related

An organization’s culture is determined by its beliefs and comprises of everything it does. It not only affects the way in which the organization is managed but also the manner in which it processes the products and provides services to the customers. Work culture is continuously subject to change and is very fragile. When the culture of an organization is spoken of, the behaviour patterns of the employees and their standards that bind it together are usually referred. Actions speak louder than words and the behaviour patterns of employees are most strongly influenced by the leaders of the organization.


Productivity is closely related to the culture of an organization and the habits of the employees. There are more than 7 billion people on Earth, so there is no chance that a single model can suit everyone but there are methods that work for the majority of people. In the past, women would spend a lot of time in the kitchen trying to make dinner. They had to do everything manually while today a number of tools are used such as mixer, blender and dishwasher. These electrical appliances have decreased the time for cooking while the productivity has increased. This is a life hack which implies that it is better to benefit from the progress made and utilize the right tools to master the performance.

Productivity is the technique of getting the company’s products and services to the customer with the best quality and at the lowest possible cost. It involves customer needs and labour relations. Good management plays an important role in productivity which leads to the success of a company. If the management is to transform the work climate into an ever-lasting culture for success, it should focus on the various areas of improvement such as decision-making structure, organizational clarity, Human Resource development and relationship of the Management to culture.

The goals and plans of the organization should be perceived by the members in order to achieve success. The main purpose of the structure is to initiate decision making and facilitate the ideas into reality. Corporate culture emerges from the top and hence the top management’s responsibility is to recruit, train and teach managers well so that they, in turn, provide role models for the employees who are in their charge. The manner, in which these managers behave, the way they lead and think, sets a climate and eventually a culture for success.

If the combination of capital, values, beliefs, creativity, and human resource management of an organization is not success oriented, then the outcome will be a failure. The quality of products and quality service influence a company’s cultural values. The production practices and products reflect the creativeness and innovation. A successful company always treats its people with dignity and respect. Successful companies follow the basic values and beliefs. Providing top quality products or services virtually affects every function of these companies and they hold this belief that it is essential to achieve excellence. They are responsive to the customer needs and guidelines are established that provide regular feedback and coaching by the supervisors. These companies have frequent open communications and a feeling of informality. They emphasize on a go-with-the-flow attitude.

Prepare Yourself To Deal With Difficult People

You like or not, but difficult people are always there in every work environment. They are omnipresent and ever irritating. They can be your colleague, counterpart, or in the worst situation; your boss!

They tarnish your self-esteem; they damage your self-confidence and sometimes hit your professional courage. Well, are the difficult people so dangerous?

Sometimes yes and sometimes no! You create a ‘larger than life’ image of such people and find their behavior obnoxious. You feel that they are just intolerable people who will not change their mindset ever.

You feel that it is very much difficult to deal with them and it will be a loss of productivity if you spend time in correcting the behavior of difficult people.

Yes, it makes sense up to some extent. Correcting their behavior could be a daunting task but what about correcting ‘your own’ behavior to deal with them?

Understand their ‘type’ first!

Don’t put all types of difficult people in one category. Yes, there are several varieties. Some don’t pay attention to what you are telling and keep on talking in an irritating manner. Some want you to listen what they say and expect that you should follow their order without question.

Some feel that they are ‘Mr. Know-it-all’ and anything under the sun that is not created by them is inferior. Some are jealous of you without any reason, and they do not miss a single chance to humiliate or offend you.


Some people always want to remain in the limelight and want to take the responsibility of success; it is not the situation when the team fails. They are the bitterest critic in that case.

Some people wait for the chance of stabbing you in the back. They act like your best friend or the most decent boss, but they carry a different feeling internally. Since you know it very well, the situation frustrates you more.

The list is indicative and not comprehensive. You may get hundreds of other varieties of tough people.

Before you decide the strategy to deal with them, first recognize and understand them thoroughly.

Isn’t it a good idea to ignore them instead of thinking the ways of dealing with them?

Yes, it looks quite fancy but the things won’t improve if these people are left unaddressed. Rather, they become worst. Usually, these difficult people are in such roles that you can’t avoid them. Thus, the conflicts simmer underground and erupt on the surface with a blast.

Moreover, when you ignore; it is treated your weakness. They consider you a coward, and they find new ways of irritating you at the workplace. It may result in you losing the objectivity and emotional control which is not good in a professional environment.

Sometimes, ignoring difficult people gets rebounded. You get the blame for not having the skills of handling difficult people.  People start considering ‘you’ a difficult person.

Hence, don’t let others cause devastating consequences to your career growth. Deal difficult people timely and save your job.

Find out productive and practical ways to address the issue

What do you think? Should you use your Martial Arts skills to correct the behavior of a bully coworker? Or should you shout at a difficult coworker in the boardroom who delays your presentation purposely?

No, these are not good solutions either. At least, in a structured work environment; they are not good indeed.

If at all you use them, there are big chances of you getting fired from the company. Hence, cool down and read these productive (and effective) ways.

  • Retrospect the situation. Make sure you are not overacting to it or giving unnecessary importance to the other person. Hope you are not exaggerating the behavior.
  • Compare the behavior. You should talk to other coworkers about it. Do they also carry the same feeling as you do? Or the other person is reacting to ‘your’ behavior? You believe it or not, but in many situations, the problem is in you and not in the other person.
  • Assess the situation objectively. Do not let the emotions come in between. Legitimate emotions such as anger, frustration, humiliation, feeling of being isolated or fear to make the situation complicated.
  • Are you getting disturbed by the behavior of the difficult people about you? Make sure you are not getting carried away what others say or think. In a situation when we become prejudiced by what others think, our opinion also gets colored like that. Hence, think in a cool manner and then decide the further action plan.
  • Open the dialogue if possible. Try to explain your stand and convey your feelings. If the arrogance is disturbing you, then request the other person to be a little docile. If bossing troubles you, then let the other person know that you are getting affected by the behavior. When you open up, the chances of improvement improve. Always keep the tone polite and normal when you deal with difficult people.  Don’t let them judge that their behavior disturbs you.

What if everything else fails?

Yes, as they say, “hope for the best and be prepared for the worst”; there comes a situation when all your efforts fail.

You must decide whether the good in the current job outweighs the bad things or it is the other way round? If the good outweighs, then you should not worry about tough people.

If the bad outweighs, then the best thing is to leave your job. Instead of working with a frustrated mindset, it is better to quit. At the end of the day, you should not compromise happiness and peace of mind. It is more important than anything else.

What is the guarantee that you won’t get tough people in the new company? Well, there is a possibility of it, but at least you will have a new set of people to deal with. You can try the ways and methods described earlier.

Life is nothing but an unending trail of trial and error; isn’t it?