traffic-light-157459_640Last week, I talked about the challenge of ensuring the right level of collaboration and engagement in team meetings. I told you that I would share a simple tool that I have used with teams to get a better “read” on where people really stand on an issue, decision, or idea.

Here’s are the top three reasons why you should consider using this tool:

  1. The team is larger than five people, making it difficult to take the time or track who thinks what.
  2. The decision is complex or imbedded with conflicting views and interests.
  3. Team members have varying patterns of interacting, some more dominant than others.

How to construct the tool. Download the image on this post or one you find elsewhere. Insert into a PowerPoint slide to fill the full slide. Print for each team member and then fold and tape the stoplight so that you have a table top triangle that people can set in front of them on the table or webcam.

Then, whether you are collaborating or deciding, you can either:

  • Stop at a key point and ask where people stand, or
  • Set the expectation that people will keep their level of agreement out in front while you discuss.

Red means that the person does not agree or has significant concerns.

Amber means that the person has some concerns to address before getting to green.

Green means full or sufficient agreement to stand behind the decision or idea.

It can be really interesting to see (literally) with whom you have agreement, concerns, and strong opposition. As the leader, you can focus on what needs clarifying, what competing interests are in the room, and how to direct the next part of the meeting or dialogue.

Or, in one team, we had a person who was amber on the first handful of requests. And when questioned, he said “I’ll always be amber to start–that’s just the way I think.” Just that insight into the person was very valuable. The team had experienced the person’s pattern for a long time without realizing that he wasn’t being obstinate, he just had a tendency to question cautiously first.

So, a simple tool. If you can get beyond the construction and physical inclusion of the tool in your meeting, I predict you will find huge value. It saves time and focuses the conversation on the right things. Try it!