Even if your leadership team has been running a business for years, you can still run into speed bumps in your team meetings. Tough Issues can be…well, tough to solve. It’s in those moments when you need your team to step up to the plate with creative ideas. Those are also the moments when your team may feel stymied. Meeting participation drops and you’re left with one or two people who drive the discussion.
If that sounds familiar to you, we’ve got your back. Here are seven proven ways to generate more engagement, stronger participation and more creative ideas to solve your toughest Issues.
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1) Watch for Silent Partners
Everybody has an off day once in a while when they have a hard time contributing. Maybe their brain is stuck in low gear, or there’s a personal thing occupying their mind. But if you have a team member who consistently keeps their mouth shut, you’ve got a silent partner problem.
In this case, a silent partner signs off on the team’s decisions, but they don’t contribute to solving your Issues. Maybe they don’t feel confident putting their ideas out there, or they’re intimidated by strong personalities. Whatever the case, they’re holding your team back from greater success. If they don’t contribute, they can’t add value.
It’s time to get your silent partner to make some noise! You might be tempted to call them out in the middle of a discussion, but be sure you’re not inadvertently putting them in a tight spot. If they’re shy or easily intimidated, you could end up shutting them down.
Instead, pull them aside before your next meeting and give them a challenge. Tell them they were hired because they have value to add, and you expect them to add it. Give them a heads-up that you’ll be calling on them in your next meeting. This notice will give them time to prepare and give them the opportunity to take the initiative themselves, without being called to the carpet in front of the group.
2) Encourage Dissention
Some people are fantastic at spotting holes in other people’s ideas—and that’s a good thing! If you’ve got a natural dissenter on your team, count your lucky stars. They’ll see potential problems a mile away, before you double-down on a decision that could bite you in the britches later on.
Dissenters can often keep their opinions to themselves, though—they pick up on cues that they’re the nay-sayer of the group, or they’re self-conscious about continually pointing out the flaws in other people’s ideas.
Encourage these people to participate more in meetings. Before settling on a solution to an Issue, invite your dissenters to throw a monkey wrench into the plan. Ask your team questions like these:
- What could go wrong?
- Why will this solution fail?
- What haven’t we considered?
- What are the costs?
3) Don’t Fear Silence
Extroverts process their thoughts aloud—they love telling you what’s on their minds, and they’ll find it easy to participate in meetings. But introverts are internal processors, and their engagement in meetings will look different. If you have introverts on your team, they’ll need time and space to think before they speak. In this case, silence in a meeting is a good thing—it means they’re engaging with the Issue.
Don’t be afraid of silence in a meeting. Give your people time to process their thoughts. You’ll be amazed at the depth of insight that bubbles up from the depths of an introvert’s mind!
4) Review Issues Beforehand
Since introverts need time and space to think, you can boost the value of their contributions making sure everyone sees the Issues List before the meeting. By reviewing the Issues ahead of time, your team members can enter the meeting already having been thoughtful about the Issues and more ready to identify, discuss and solve them.
5) Schedule Meetings Wisely
There’s a time and a place for everything, and that includes meetings. Your people will have more energy to be more engaged in a meeting at key times during the day, and they’ll be completely checked out at other times.
Some of the worst times to schedule a meeting:
- First thing in the morning, when people are still waking up and getting oriented to the day
- Last thing in the afternoon, when people are mentally checking out
- Right before lunch, when your team members are hungriest and distracted
- Anytime on Friday, because…well, it’s Friday!
Mid-mornings are one of the best times for meetings because your energy level is at its peak and you’re most focused. Mid-afternoon also works well, because by then you’ve got most of your urgent tasks out of the way. Lunchtime meetings can be productive, if you’re providing food—but be aware that you’re cutting into people’s personal time.
6) Solicit Bad Ideas
When creativity is sputtering, or a good solution is especially difficult to find, ask your team members for the worst idea possible. It’s a great way to break the cycle of stuck thinking and draw out the creativity from your team. People re-engage in the meeting at a new level, and ideas start to flow. Bad ideas lead to better ideas, and before you know it you’ve found a great solution to a tough Issue.
7) Meet Outside of Meetings
Want your team to engage more creatively in meetings? Have them engage with each other outside of meetings. Solving Issues requires sticking your neck out there, once in a while. To do that, you’ve got to trust that the guy next to you isn’t hiding an axe!
If you want team members to put themselves out there, you’ll need to have a team that knows and trusts each other. That means spending time together—grabbing lunch, chatting around the water cooler, sharing each other’s personal lives. You don’t need to do an escape room together (although, not a bad idea!), but do create room to build relationships that aren’t purely based on work requirements.
Get More Out of Your Meetings
Any team can have a hard time drawing out more creativity and participation in meetings. Try out one of these tips this week. Which one do you need to start with first?
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