Leading a meeting for the purpose of building a team (on top of achieving some business goals) may include a dose of ineffectiveness. It would be easier to be efficient, get on with things and let the ones who participate do just that, participate, allowing some silences, some nodding, and the reserved look of the more introverts. More inefficient is to ‘waste time’ to ‘engineer the time’ so that everybody participates. But, if you do so, eventually, and progressively, over a period of time, team meeting air time will be divided pretty much in equal parts between participants. This is the trick. Then, you’ll have created a safe place. Not before.
But you may have to orchestrate that. The wrong way: ‘Now, the ones we have not heard from, speak up…’. And half of the room is now in the spotlight, nowhere to hide behind the screen.
The right way: ‘What do you think of this Mary, from your perspective as late newcomer to the team?’. Then, similar question to Peter. And John.
First time you ask, it looks like politeness; second time it feels I am actually expected to contribute; third time, I am prepared, if still a bit embarrassed; fourth time, everybody does it, it’s actually pretty safe, this seems pretty egalitarian. Then you have a protected space.
Team building? Build your team with this simple rule. Distributed airtime for voices, spontaneous or engineered is a simple rule to create safe collaborative environments. I repeat, you may need to engineer this for a while.
Avoid a meeting with ‘audiences’: nobody at the back listening. Forget the ‘we bring Mary as a development opportunity’. If Mary needs a development opportunity, surely it must be beyond improving her hearing.
Declare all meetings as ‘hands on deck meeting’. Create a safe environment not by declaring it safe, but by proving that, day after day, it is safe because everybody is participating. And everybody is participating not because you inherited the most participative DNA colleagues, but because 3 months ago you started asking questions one by one: what do you think of this Mary, from your perspective as late newcomer to the team?’; John, I wonder if you would agree with this? Peter, could you think of a reason why this could not work?
If you call these facilitation skills, I don’t mind. I call it social engineering of all minds and hearts put to use. I am more utilitarian than you.
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