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Team members not speaking in meetings? Here are 6 tips to boost participation.


Writing for the Harvard Business Review, executive coach Luis Velasquez outlines the steps managers can take to increase participation in their meetings, arguing that both personal and group dynamics need to be considered.

Paying attention to personal dynamics

Understanding and addressing each of your team member's strengths, weaknesses, aspirations, and fears is critical to creating an inclusive and participatory environment in your meetings, Velasquez writes.

People's perception of themselves and their personalities can discourage them from engaging in meetings. For example, someone's introverted nature, a lack of confidence, or impostor syndrome could make someone reluctant to share their thoughts.

To address this, Velasquez recommends conducting one-on-ones with disengaged team members, beginning each conversation by recognizing their valuable contributions and asking open-ended questions to explore how they feel about team meetings.

For example, you could ask how they feel about their role, contributions, whether there are any personal challenges or concerns that could be impacting their participation, and what changes could be made to meeting structure to help encourage participation.

Once you've determined the personal factors affecting someone's participation, Velasquez writes that you could say something affirmational like:

"I want you to know that your ideas and feedback are not only welcome but key for our success. For our next meeting, I'd love for you to share your thoughts on [specific topic/project]. I'll make sure to create a space for you to express your ideas comfortably. Your perspective is unique and can help us see things we might otherwise miss. How does that sound?"

Paying attention to group dynamics

Addressing group dynamics, including various power dynamics like those related to gender, sexual orientation, race, and neurodivergence, is also critical to fostering a safe, participatory environment in meetings, Velasquez writes.

Given the dynamics of a group, it's important to show team members that they're valued. Velasquez recommends defining the desired team behaviors by declaring the type of team you want and the behaviors you expect, saying something like, "As a team, we support each other, we tackle challenges together, and we communicate transparently and constructively."

Then, Velasquez writes that, as a manager, you need to model those behaviors by showing empathy in your interactions and actively participating in problem-solving. Whenever a team member exhibits those desired behaviors, you should recognize them for it, Velasquez writes.

Once those behaviors are embedded in your team's repertoire, Velasquez writes that you should invite team-wide participation during your meetings. For example, you could say, "As we prepare for our discussion on [topic], let's remember our team behaviors: we support each other, we tackle challenges together, and we communicate transparently and constructively. I encourage everyone to bring their insights and questions, as your unique perspectives enrich our team. Let’s make this a productive and inclusive meeting where every voice is heard."

It's also important to make your meetings a safe space to participate. Some traditional habits, like a predetermined or habitual speaking order, can inhibit other team members from spontaneity, developing subgroups within the team which can lead to echo chambers that create an imbalance of power within discussions.

To foster a supportive team culture and psychological safety in meetings, Velasquez recommends:

  • Introducing new rituals. You can begin meetings by reaffirming the team's culture and behaviors, which sets a positive tone and clear expectations.
  • Challenging existing rituals that could hinder participation. For example, you could clarify that silence will be interpreted as agreement to ensure that issues are resolved during meetings.
  • Enhancing meeting structure and facilitation. Ensure that agendas are clear and that expectations are communicated in advance. This allows team members to feel more prepared and inclined to participate.
  • Empowering varied participation. Allow different team members to help facilitate the meeting, giving those who are usually less vocal a structured role to encourage them to speak.
  • Avoiding any distractions and handling them when they arise.
  • Confronting any power dynamics and making sure all voices are heard equally.

"As leaders, we must cultivate teams where every member's contributions are not only heard but eagerly anticipated, and where every member feels safe to voice their opinion, even contrarian ones," Velasquez writes. "It's our job to be orchestrators of inclusive and safe cultures. We should amplify the quiet voices, challenge the status quo, and embrace diverse perspectives. Ask your team 'What can we do better?' and let their answers guide you to a more engaged and participative meeting environment." (Velasquez, Harvard Business Review, 5/20)


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