Posted by: kerrywills | August 4, 2017

Understanding or disrupting?

Like many who read these blog postings, I spend most of my days in meetings. Many of these meetings have ten or more people in them and in most meetings there are the same people stopping the presentation or update to ask questions. This always gets me asking myself if they are appropriate to ask and understand information or if they are just being disruptive. Generally, it is the same people who ask the questions so I suspect it is related to personality attributes as well

In thinking about this, I have determined that the answer is “it depends.” There are a few factors…

  • Does the person’s role require this information? It is appropriate for a decision maker to understand the facts and implications in order to make an informed decision so they should be asking clarifying questions
  • Is the person trying to help solve the problems? If additional information is required for people to recommend solutions, identify implications or resolve the problem them asking is also ok.
  • Optics. Sometimes people ask questions to seem interested, try to impress leadership or just poking at people who they think are not prepared. While I do not think this is always appropriate, it definitely happens (I have colleagues who have been told by their managers to ask questions in meetings with senior people so they look engaged).

My approach is often to ask questions in a smaller setting and not to disrupt meetings, especially when there are a lot of people on the call. This may result in me being seen as not trying to understand but I would prefer that over slowing down progress or delaying action. However if there is something flagrantly wrong or missing that would impact an effective action being taken then I will jump in.

What do others think? Feel free to jump in now….


  1. You have a good point. I think it depends on the type of meeting, number of people. I know that sometimes I need clarification on an acronym or something to understand what is going on and I might write it down to ask later.

  2. Hire the succinct.

  3. […] Kerry Wills notes that some people ask questions in meetings to refine their understanding, while others … have other motives. 2 minutes to read. […]

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