voices carry

by mch on November 24, 2008

I overheard a conversation the other day that could have been about almost any workplace.  The comment that stands out to me the most might have been said about many staff meetings I’ve sat in:

They say they value all voices and contributions, but only a few people dominated the meeting. Clearly they have work to do!

A few questions came up for me when I heard that, some of which were almost launched in my own potential defense, as I’m not one who’s usually shy to speak in a meeting.  For those who are not as likely to speak up, what can we do to make sure everyone’s voice is heard and valued?  And whose responsibility is it to make that happen?  Some considerations:

  • Send out your agenda in advance.  It’s helpful for all meeting participants to have information in advance of the meeting about what items will be up for discussion.  Remember that not everyone on staff is up-to-date on the latest issues (it would be impossible in most agencies for everyone to keep track of that much data) and it’s helpful for each individual to have time to think about and possibly prepare for each agenda item before the meeting.  If particularly complex issues are up for discussion, consider including background or preparatory information out early as well; doing so could save you valuable meeting time and will help create a level playing field for all participants.
  • Not everyone thrives in fast-paced meeting.  Many folks would rather mull over ideas in a group then determine their opinions and identify their contributions afterwards in a more quiet space. I used to spend hours after large group meetings, re-meeting with individual staff to hear their perspectives in a quieter space or after they had more processing time.  If post-meeting conversations suit the personality of your staff, think about ways to formalize seeking that feedback and incorporating it in decision-making processes.
  • Longer pauses.  As meetings unfold, note how quickly the more talkative folks break in to add their two cents.  Quieter folks may need more time to speak up.
  • Ask everyone for input: don’t assume that the quiet participants have nothing to add.

Everyone on staff makes contributions in his or her own way, and to a certain extent supervisors and managers can create multiple opportunities to receive those contributions.   After the workplace uses the flexibility it can offer to support different working styles, isn’t the individual employee responsible for managing his or her quantity (and quality) of input?


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

RYErnest December 1, 2008 at 2:08 am

Nice post u have here :D Added to my RSS reader

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