Author: Phil Hartwick
First Published: 2021
When facilitating team workshops or meetings we typically see at least one or two team members who don’t seem to contribute much.
We know it can be hard to get a word in edgewise, especially when discussion is moving at a pace and there are other more vocal and faster speakers in the group. And you may be asking yourself: ‘What can I add anyway?’.
Unfortunately if this happens a lot, the team is probably not getting the benefit of your input, your diversity of thought and approach. You have become what we call a passenger to the team discussions. We would like to challenge you to try to do better.
Ask yourself what you can do to be a stronger contributor during discussions – and not just a passenger. Here are some ideas to get you thinking:
Review the agenda in advance. Come to the meeting with the intent to contribute. Contributing may take the form of bringing specific ideas, new information, key messages or even what you think will be useful questions.
Intervene, and defend your right and time to speak. Firstly, use a hand signal (we like reaching across the table towards the person speaking) to signal you have something you want to say. And once you have a pause in the dialogue and their attention, you might start by labelling what you are about to do. For example: “Can I just comment on what you said a moment ago?”, or, “Can I ask a question?” Then prepare to respond quickly to any interruptions by saying ‘Can I just finish what I was saying, please?’
Ask the manager, leader or facilitator ahead of the meeting to make a point of inviting and opening the door for others to speak periodically, and to monitor for others interrupting or dominating the conversation.
Consider using a coach to help you grow your communication confidence. We know that with focus and time, individuals can grow in their ability to contribute in meetings and hold their own with others who speak more. Coaches can be useful to help you to prepare and practise strategies that will grow your confidence and contribution.
Teams that don’t get actively seek input from the entire team and therefore allow one or two to dominate are not getting value from the diversity in the room, so find ways of having your voice heard, your ideas discovered.