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  • Writer's pictureJen Laidlaw

The world isn’t flat, but your meetings should be…

Have you ever noticed that some team members are always the ones to speak up in a meeting? That the same folks always have all the ideas and share them? That some folks are always willing to volunteer or share an opinion? Not more than 3 seconds of awkward silence will pass before these same folks will speak up. It’s not a bad thing- until it is.

Conversations and live decision making move too fast for some to process, analyze, and decide how they feel, so they’ll defer to faster thinking and more outspoken peers and leaders. What’s wrong with that? Nothing if you only want ideas to come from one type of learner. But if you’re interested to hear what your more thoughtful, careful, and quiet folks think, you’ll need to make space for them to be heard. The only way to do that is to slow things down and create a safe space for sharing. That’s called “flattening the room”- making everyone in the room- and their ideas- of equal importance.

How do I do that?

Below are a few ideas. Ultimately, though, anything that slows things down, limits the amount of sharing your “quick” thinkers can do, and makes sharing ideas safe will steer you towards a more even playing field that allows all types of learners to participate.

Equal sharing.

Limit the number of ideas a single person can share, or limit the time a single person is allowed to talk. Asking everyone to come up with the same number of ideas or solutions or questions (2 not 20) limits your quick thinkers from oversharing and prompts your longer thought processors to come up with and share their ideas.

Write before you talk.

Consider posing a question or problem to the group and then give them time to write down ideas before sharing verbally. Then go around the room and ask each person to share 1 idea at a time. Limiting each person to the same number of ideas is best (equal sharing!). Not only does this help get quiet folks talking, it reduces group think and allows for more creative ideas to come out.

Set expectations.

If everyone is aligned on the ground rules of a meeting, everyone is prepared to follow them. Actually enforcing the ground rules is just as important as setting them, so make sure at least one person in the meeting is able to hold the group accountable. Here are some examples of some common meeting ground rules:

  • Everyone must participate.

  • Be engaged.

  • No one is allowed to judge any idea as good or bad.

  • Gather all ideas first before discussing or evaluating.

  • Be kind.

  • Be respectful.

These are just a few examples of allowing space for quiet folks on your team to speak up. I guarantee that those quiet folks have good ideas. Great ideas. They just don’t create and commit to sharing them as quickly. If you flatten the room- making each person and their ideas just as important as everyone else’s- you’ll allow the space for ideas from all types of learners to develop and be heard. And that leads to better meetings with more effective outcomes.

Want to learn more about holding effective meetings? Let’s talk!

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