Daring to Challenge: The Surprising Meeting Management Lesson from the Making of “Barbie”

If you’ve seen Barbie: The Movie, you might not be surprised how its writer Greta Gerwig describes the movie’s (star and producer) Margot Robbie:

“She just, like, runs at danger.”

What may astonish you is this:

She was talking about how Robbie shows up in meetings.

Here’s the full quote, from a NYT article:

“When [Margot] Robbie approached [Greta] Gerwig about writing the film, the parameters were extremely broad: She could do anything she wanted.

One thing she really wanted to do was work with Robbie, who, she says, finishes meetings by asking, “ ‘Does anyone have anything that they just really hate or want to bring up right now that’s really bothering them?’ She just, like, runs at danger.”

I was intrigued.

What do meetings and running “at danger” have in common?

It means that, when you end meetings by asking the hard questions to uncover what had not been said, you are running at danger (a.k.a brave) AND displaying a quality that makes talented people want to work with you.

I thought about it. Asking your team members what they hate about an idea or what’s bothering them seems really risky, but might open a path to better and better ideas.  When I was a team leader, I always wanted my team to speak up and tell me what they really thought. Silent acquiescence was the worst.

Ask the hard questions

To be sure, to ask and answer these hard questions, you need trust in the room. You need a leader who is open to receiving the dissenting views, and the person answering being comfortable enough to share a potentially unpopular viewpoint.

But if the trust groundwork is in place, wouldn’t this be an exciting way to end a meeting?

I first read this article before “Barbie” came out in theaters. Now I see it in a new light. Given the movie’s commercial triumph, cultural significance and (in my opinion) extraordinary combination of humor and depth, I can’t help wondering if:

Brave meetings create great outcomes.

And running your meetings “dangerously” might be a game-changing aspiration.

Quote from Paskin, Willa. “Greta Gerwig’s ‘Barbie ‘ Dream Job.” New York Times, July 11th, 2023

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