“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford
One of the challenges that many managers face is knowing how best to engage with those on their teams who do not naturally respond and are not comfortable being put on the spot. We can never assume that those who are not engaging in a meeting do not have a valuable contribution to make.
There are a variety of personality types and dynamics in any team or group meeting, and understanding those dynamics is the key to unlocking how to get the best out of the meeting. More importantly, it will provide the insight a manager or team leader needs to motivate individuals beyond the meeting.
Here are some thoughts on how to get the best out of meetings that you organise and attend:
Establish at the point of setting the meeting why you are hosting it, or seek clarity on why you are being asked to attend. If you are hosting the meeting, set out in the meeting request why the meeting is being held, who is attending, and for how long. These may seem to be very basic points, but how often do we fire off a meeting request without providing clarity to the participants of what the expectations are of their attendance?
Goals and objectives of the meeting
Either in the meeting request or on the agenda, provide clarity on what the goals, objectives, and proposed outcomes are for the meeting. Set a brief but focused agenda and consider assigning timings to keep the meeting on track. Consider an agenda broken into the following areas:
- Requires a Decision
- Requires a Discussion
- For Information
Also, factor in time to talk about success and quick wins to bring a positive energy to the meeting and a greater level of motivation.
Create an environment that allows space and time to respond
We have all attended meetings where the same people dominate and those who are less comfortable in an open environment do not have the space or time to contribute. Many of us have participated in personality profiling and know that extroverts and introverts demonstrate publicly and personally different behavioral traits. In particular, introverts tend to reflect inward, so they respond only after they have given thought to what their answers may be. If they are given the time and space to reflect and contribute, their input can be extremely valuable.
Become comfortable with silence and create the space for people to think, even expressing in a meeting, “Let’s take a moment to reflect on (topic) before we respond.”
Prepare ahead of time
Even when the space and time for reflection is given during a meeting, many will still not respond. Taking into consideration again the personality types and dynamics of your team, consider giving the team a problem to solve ahead of the meeting, or the opportunity to bring their thoughts to the meeting.
Clarify what you are asking them to think about and what you wish each of them to bring to the meeting. Perhaps consider rotating who will speak first at each meeting, and let them know ahead of time so as not to put them on the spot.
Respond in writing
Even with the above suggestions, you will still find that there are certain individuals who will still not respond. Either allow them to respond to you in writing ahead of the meeting, or email or text you during the meeting. Don’t single them out.
Often in meetings, we need an answer on the spot, and typically, again, it will be the more extroverted that respond. If you wish for an immediate answer, you run the risk of it not always being the introvert’s best answer and could often keep them from sharing. Introverts do not like being put on the spot. Therefore, let the extroverts answer, but consider giving the others an hour following the meeting to respond. This gives them the space to think and respond, and also allows you to demonstrate that they have a responsibility to participate and contribute towards decision-making.
Express genuine and specific interest in their ideas
There is a common belief that we all like to be respected for our ideas and suggestions. If you wish people to share more, we need to remind them of the valuable roles they play as individuals and as part of a team. Choose language that is inclusive and demonstrates that you value their contributions. This can be done before or after the meeting, as well as during the meeting. Again, introverts don’t always like to be singled out even for praise.
As humans, we are a complex race and there is no one way that works to maximise engagement. Getting to know and understand your team and what motivates them and how they engage will be the key to unlocking what works for you and your team.
As a manager, it is totally acceptable to set the expectation that you want everyone to participate in decision-making; however, you must accept that everyone will contribute in a different way and that everyone’s contribution adds value.
Finally, remember to recognise and, where appropriate, reward individual or team contributions.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller
— Karen Cairney, Associate