David, a Sr. Finance Manager who participated in a recent Discover Your Best Thinking with Precision Q+A workshop in Silicon Valley, asked: “Sometimes I say ‘That’s a great question’ before I answer questions in meetings. Should I be more direct and just answer?”
It depends on the type of meeting.
This month’s Skill Sharpener addresses David’s question in relation to collaborative problem-solving meetings. Next month we’ll address his question in the context of review meetings.
Collaborative Problem-Solving Meetings
In collaborative problem-solving meetings, we team with colleagues to craft a solution, plan, decision, or next step.
When we start an answer with “That’s a good question,” we aren’t really evaluating the quality of the question. We know this because, if we think a question isn’t very good, we don’t say “That question’s a bit mediocre!” or “Really, that’s the best you can come up with right now?”
“That’s a good question” usually means something like:
- “Hmm, I hadn’t thought of that before.”
- “Your question is coming from an angle I haven’t considered.”
- “Your question is deepening my understanding of the issue.”
- “Give me a second to come up with a useful response.”
During collaborative problem-solving meetings, pausing briefly to organize our thoughts can be quite helpful. When we do this, we signal to our colleagues that we respect their input, as well as their time.
We want our answers to reflect our best thinking, and that can take a few seconds. If you’re an extrovert, you may fill these seconds by saying “That’s a good question” or “Give me a second to think about that.” If you’re an introvert, you may nod or simply pause silently. Both approaches acknowledge that we’re considering what was asked and that it’s going to take us a moment to generate an answer that’s as thoughtful as the question.
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