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A Question of Employee Engagement

2 min read

“I’d like everyone in the room to answer one question: If money were no object, what would you be doing with your life right now?”

Performer/Coach Margie Zohn describes how a question isn’t always just a question…

Once I was asked to observe the leadership team of a small advertising firm in order to help them improve their meeting process. Their meetings had been lackluster and frustrating and they were not sure exactly why.

I asked the CEO to try something completely different to open the meeting–something that might raise a few eyebrows, but that would help people engage with one another. He agreed, but didn’t tell me what he planned to do.

He began with, “I’d like everyone in the room to answer one question: If money were no object, what would you be doing with your life right now?”

I observed uncomfortable shifting in chairs. One guy asked, “You REALLY want to know?”

“No,” the CEO said with a wry grin, “Lie to me.”

A few chuckles, but then silence. Finally, the CFO spoke up. “I would go get my teaching certificate and teach second grade.”

Some people looked surprised, others smiled. The group warmed to the question.

“I would spend a year traveling and learning about the history of my family”

“I would record a CD of my original music”

“I would go back to school for environmental science”

“I would work with Save The Children…”

Turns out, only one person would still be working for the advertising company – the CEO.

He said, “Well, I’d still do this job, but I’d do it many fewer hours. I have a son who is 11 years old. I figure I’ve got only a few more years where he still likes me.”

A big laugh. Then the CFO chimed in. “Don’t worry – he’ll be back when he’s 30.”

The exercise had taken less than 10 minutes, yet the warmth, relaxation, and sense of meaning in the room was palpable. Even though no one had “toed the company line”, the meeting proceeded with a focus and energy that had been missing in the group. The team easily accomplished its goals and then some.

How does a group of people become a team? One key element is personal engagement. How much of your true self can you bring into work? Do you feel valued and honored for that self?

One powerful question at the beginning of a meeting can create a a real sense of engagement.

So…what’s your question?


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