You’ve been in these meetings before…lots of them. Only a few people, perhaps one, dominate the conversation. Comments are made that are, frankly, inappropriate. The tone of the room is one of skepticism but no one voices it out loud. Then, after the meeting, there is dissent and confusion…why were we here and what was that meant to accomplish? As a leader you must be a model of inclusion and this article highlights 4 important steps to do so:
- Give People the Floor. We know the best ideas do not necessarily come from the loudest voices. We also know people have different speaking styles. So, our job is to clear out space to let someone voice their thought without getting interrupted. Key point: be careful that YOU do not interrupt. Be the model you wish to see others emulate.
- Make Room for Introverts. Again, different styles are not a right/wrong judgement, but you have to understand how people think to respect those styles. Extroverts will be first and loudest with ideas or concerns, and they like to talk while they think. Introverts will sit back, listen, incubate and try to find the best wording. As the facilitator you have to give introverts room to bring their ideas out…and believe me, you want their ideas!
- Address Inappropriate Comments. I have done this two ways. First, like the article says, address it immediately in the meeting. Simply, firmly putting a stop to a comment sends a message to the rest of the team. Second, I like to pull the person off to the side, privately, to highlight the comment, why it was inappropriate, and how the individual could have handled it differently. If the comment was harsh, I have asked the team member who made the comment to apologize personally to the other colleague.
- Invite Dissent. So often teams meet with “the boss” and simply feel they have to agree, and good leaders know, that is absolutely NOT what we want. There are times for divergence, and times for convergence and the trick is to know which is appropriate. So, don’t make your teams guess…just be open and tell them! If you’re kicking off a meeting, once you’ve reviewed the meeting agenda & objectives, make it a point to say something like “this is a discussion where I am encouraging us to bring ideas, and it’s ok to disagree.”