According to a recent study the average executive spends 23 hours a week in meetings. We’ve all been trapped in meetings that seem to do little more than catch people on past events or hand out gold stars. As a steady diet, that gets boring…fast! Which is why we recommend a meeting protocol to enhance productivity and team engagement.

The method is called the “Challenge Exploration”. It focuses on one important challenge happening within the team and invites the group to dive into finding a solution together. The key is to make the challenge personal: to have one person focus the exploration, someone who wants to make some sort of change with respect to a problem or opportunity he or she is facing.

Preparation. Before the meeting, have a peer (not the leader of the meeting) interview the person for about 15 minutes about their challenge. The job of the interviewer is to probe enough to introduce the dilemma—not just the surface story but the underlying crux of the issue as well. The interviewer will present the challenge at least as succinctly and poignantly as the person themselves. If not, more so.

The format of this meeting goes as follows:

1.Introduce the Challenge. First, the interviewer lays out the issue. Then the person takes a few minutes to add or correct as needed from their own perspective. (5 min)

2. Clarifying and probing questions. At this point, we invite the rest of the team to ask questions about the challenge. Don’t let these questions become discussions. Asked, answered, move on to the next. (10 min)

3.Storytelling input. Now the person exploring the challenge goes into listen-only mode, as team members help surface solutions and ideas. It is most effective to have this input be sharing an experience where they dealt with something similar. You don’t want to be “shoulding” in each other (telling the person what they should do). Better to use first person past tense: “Your challenge reminds me of a time when I…” That way all of us learn from the experiences of each other and that brings everyone closer. (15 min)

Be clear with the timing. It is okay if you have to move on before every possible question is asked or every experience shared.

4. Accountability. To close the topic, the individual with the problem has the floor again to share any insights and commit to actions for which they are willing to be accountable. (5 min)

As you can see, the process moves quickly and goes deep. In less than 40 minutes, you can walk away from the meeting having solved an important issue and having strengthened your team as a whole.

If you’re missing the more traditional “everyone shares their achievements” format of meetings, we suggest saving this portion for email ahead of time or a video check-in using the Numina app. To help team members get to the crux of the issue, download our Peer Coaching tool here.

We also suggest team development sessions to create a strong and productive team.