Updated November 2020
Not everyone loves meetings. They can be made more engaging by preparing an opening question. It can be an ice breaker for newly formed groups or something to warm up the individuals in the group. It can help the quieter members of a group get more used to speaking up. Good questions are a way of bringing everyone’s attention to the present moment and to the group. It can also be a way of mining for issues that might be obscured by the normal functioning of the group.
No matter what the reason for opening a meeting with a question, the sharing and discussion that follows will contribute to better relationships and better understanding among the team members.
Questions for checking in on mental health
- What is your biggest stressor right now?
- What are you grateful for today?
- What has surprised you about the way you have responded to a recent crisis?
- How do you feel about your current work/life balance?
- What is motivating you right now? Is it different from what it was before?
- What do you miss most about pre-pandemic life?
- Who are your heroes right now?
- Do you need accountability help on working toward a goal, whether it’s work-related or something like finishing a sweater you’re knitting or a book you’re reading? Can we help by checking in regularly?
- When do you feel you are your most creative? Most productive? Least creative or productive?
- If you have a go-to pick-me-up right now, will you share it? Examples might be a photo of a loved one, a regular video chat, a favorite video clip, a daily joke, a check on your bird feeder.
Questions for building rapport among hybrid teams or those working from home
- What is your favorite desk stretch or at-home exercise?
- Show us something in your home you find beautiful.
- How have you altered your communication style for this situation?
- What’s something to the team could do to make all of you feel more connected?
- What is your neighborhood like right now and how is it different from before?
- What is something you’ve read, watched, or listened to lately that you’d recommend?
- What is something that made you laugh this week?
- What hobby are you most engaged in these days?
- Are you attempting to limit your screen time? Any tips to share with others on how to do that?
- Do you have children, pets, roommates, or others around right now? Do you want to introduce them to the group?
- Have you picked up any new hobbies this year? Do you want to tell us about them?
- Is there a recipe you’ve been liking recently? Can you share it with the team?
- What’s been the most collaborative experience you’ve had in each of the channels we use as a team (email, Slack, virtual meetings, etc.)?
Questions for newly forming groups
It’s pretty easy to find ice breaker questions online so I’ll share only a few here.
- What were you really into when you were a kid?
- What is a fashion trend you are really glad went away?
- What has been the highlight of your week so far?
- What pet(s) did you have as a kid or want to have?
- Do you like your name? Do you know who named you or what your name means?
- What’s the most beautiful place near where you live?
Questions to get to know each other better professionally
- Where would you like to see your career go? What are your ambitions?
- What inspires you at work and in your personal life?
- What do you want to be known for professionally?
- What would you be doing if you didn’t have this job?
- What are you wanting from your career?
- What about your job drains your energy?
- How do you recharge?
- What do you like best about working from home and/or from the office?
- What quality in you would you hate to see emulated by your fellow team members?
- What talent do you have that you’re not able to use much on this team?
- How do you behave when you’re stressed out or burnt out?
- If you opened a business, what kind of business would it be?
Questions to mine for issues or potential problems
- What are your fears about our current project?
- What is holding us back as a team?
- If our team were to lose all funding in six months or a year, what would you want us to accomplish before then?
- If you were to build our organization from scratch, what three values would you try to instill into the culture?
- What do you wish our team had the opportunity to work on?
- What do others think about our team but don’t say out loud?
- What impact do you think our team has had on the organization in the last six months?
- How should our success be measured?
- What do you think this team fears most?
- What’s your most recent communication challenge on this team?
Questions to warm up creativity
- Share an embarrassing moment from the past six months
- What super power would you like to have and why?
- What’s your favorite joke, pun, funny video or other thing that makes you laugh?
- What would a perfect day look like for you when you’re 90?
- If you could choose an imaginary friend to be with you today, who or what would you choose?
- If you had to live underground for a month, how would you prepare?
- If you could change the name of one of the planets which would you choose and what name would you use instead?
- If you were a candy bar, what candy bar would you be?
- If you had intro music, what would it be?
- What do you fear might be hiding in that cabinet, behind that door, in the dark?
- What feature do you wish your phone had?
Research by Leigh Thompson shows that asking people to share an embarrassing moment can make the team more creative. See Can a Little Embarrassment Make Your Team More Creative? This would also help the team build vulnerability-based trust (one of five behaviors of a cohesive team.)
Questions to help celebrate the team
- What are our team’s greatest strengths?
- What should our theme song be?
- If you could send us all on a trip somewhere, where would it be?
- What makes us successful?
- If the organization was going to hold a comedic roast in our honor, what would the jokes be about?
- What could other teams learn from ours?
- What have you learned from working on this team that you will take to the next team you work on?
- If a filmmaker was making a short documentary about our team, what would be the highlights?
- What else could our team take on? What new challenge should we face?
- If we could have a team mascot, what should it be?
Questions to support or celebrate individuals on the team
- Is there additional training, education, or mentoring that would help you with this new situation?
- Is there something you’ve wanted to discuss or something you’re unclear about but haven’t wanted to “waste the team’s time?” Or something you need help with that you’ve been reluctant to bring up?
- What’s something you did for work this week that you’re proud of?
- How about something you did outside of work that you’re proud of?
- What is your favorite part of your job right now? Why?
- What do you wish you had more time for?
- Is there someone on the team who has gone above and beyond lately that you’d like to shout out?
- How do you like to be recognized for a job well done?
by Kristeen Bullwinkle, originally posted on TalentGear.com. Updated May 2020 and November 2020 with contributions from Jessica Franken.