I’ve been working with some team leaders around the question of how to “fully engage” a diverse team, often virtual. Here are four ideas for your consideration:
- Design your meeting agendas for engagement. Identify your intended outcome (e.g., decision, idea generation, problem-solved, etc.) and the type of dialogue (e.g. brainstorming, debate, collaborating on options, etc.). Err on the side of zero to very short presentation, even if your intended outcome is understanding of the topic.
- Send the agenda in advance of the meeting with enough time to prepare in a way that supports the intended outcome. If you need a decision to be made, team members need to come prepared with their thinking. If you want new ideas, they may need to review a document or set of data. Without preparation, you will get the best “off-the-top-of-mind” thinking from the people who tend to speak up (which may or may not be fine).
- Set expectations for decision and collaboration accountability. Especially if you have a team larger than four or five, think about who has what decision authority and who you want to contribute in any specific way. Communicate those expectations.
- Share the meeting leadership with someone who is facilitating the interaction against the plan. It can be very hard to lead both the content and the facilitation of engagement. Having a facilitation partner for each topic or each meeting will give the whole team better support.
Two realities that make even well planned meetings tough:
- Allocating sufficient time for the intended outcome. Real discussion takes unanticipated time. Often the more complex the decision, the more uncertain the time. Meeting time is compressed and so often jammed up against the next meeting. Without a meeting designed for engagement, we often simply set arbitrary times for each agenda topic.
- Virtual participants: Some in the room with the leader, others on the phone. Three different video rooms spanning two or more time zones. And, many other variations. Again, the planning and discipline of facilitating is key to success.
Let me know how these ideas resonate with you and your team experience. Next week, I’ll share a simple tool for quickly getting a “read” on where everyone stands on a key decision or topic–whether in the room or virtual.