The Problem With Meetings: Voices Left Behind
When it comes to getting the most out of your teams and the 5 Voices tool, few practices will take you further than learning the “Rules of Engagement” for leading meetings.
In every team, there’s a certain rhyme and reason to the flow of meetings. For example, think about a start-up or quickly growing company in which its founder is the active CEO and he or she leads their executive team meetings. In these scenarios, the founder is usually a Pioneer with a strong vision for the company and firm beliefs about how to go about bringing that vision to fruition. As a result, that founder tends to lead meetings with more of a delegation approach than a discussion approach.
Or, maybe we’re not talking about the CEO, but the manager of a team within the company. Particularly in the corporate world, the person with the highest ranking title generally leads the meeting and, whether they’ve earned their team’s respect or not, they tend to present the agenda and voice their opinions on “discussion” items in such a way that either the strength of their voice, or the intimidation of their title, shuts down any dissenting opinions. Sometimes this is accidental, resulting from mere ignorance of the weight that their title or voice carries. In other cases, leaders deliberately wield their power to manipulate, bully, or push their way through to outcomes that benefit their own agenda.
Either way, a vast share of meetings tend to be unproductive and un-engaging affairs in which team members just have to put up with it, or otherwise stick it out with their heads down in the hopes that they don’t get berated in discussion for bringing opposing opinions to the table.
The Solution: Rules of Engagement
The best strategy for combatting tendencies – whether intentional or unintentional – that leave some voices behind while elevating others, is to adopt a set of “Rules of Engagement” for meetings, with varying considerations given for each voice present.
If you know the foundational voices for each member of your team, you can create an intentional environment where everyone gets to bring their best. After all, Nurturers experience different roadblocks to participation than Creatives, just like Connectors need to be encouraged in different ways than Guardians in order for all voices to maximize their unique contributions. That being said, let’s dive into a summary of how to engage each voice in such a way as to create the environment that invites the best work from each member of your team.
Rules of Engagement: Nurturers
- We want to hear your opinion
- No one is going to critique you immediately
The first rule of the five voices in a meeting is to always let the Nurturers go first. As the lowest volume voice, they are all too often drowned out by louder voices, or otherwise tend to be more hesitant to assert themselves and speak their mind. That’s why it’s important to create an environment for Nurturers to feel comfortable speaking up (or choosing not to). Due to their ever-present desire to maintain relational harmony, they often feel pressure to suppress their own thoughts and feelings so as not to step on toes. Allowing them to ideate and give opinions first helps relieve their sense of obligation to mute their own voice for the sake of maintaining relational harmony.
As representatives of 43% of people, Nurturers bring an invaluable perspective to the decision-making process for any team, and managers would do well to make sure their contributions are heard. Teams win when Nurturers are empowered to be themselves, which also means setting the expectation that no one will immediately critique the Nurturer’s input until everyone else around the team has shared.
The opportunity to share before feeling the pressure of other voices, combined with an understanding that their input will not be critiqued until everyone else has contributed, will create a safe space for the Nurturers on your team to shine.
Rules of Engagement: Creatives
- Dream big – It’s ok to be wrong sometimes
- We promise to ask clarifying questions
The most important thing to keep in mind with Creatives is to let them know that they have your permission and blessing to think outside the box. They love to ideate for the long-term and think about big picture strategy, so make sure they know that you don’t need them to play it safe, or to get hung up on due diligence to the point that it stifles their vision. Creatives are wonderful innovative thinkers who can bring potentially game-changing ideas to the table. They just need to know that it’s okay for them to be wrong sometimes. Creatives tend to mute themselves and hamstring their innovative process when they come to fear being wrong, taking chances, or having to defend every little detail of their ideation process as soon as they share their ideas.
The second rule of engagement for Creatives is to promise that you will ask clarifying questions. Every Creative tends to hold back until they’re sure they’ve got something to say, which is an important tendency to understand. If the Creative is speaking out loud, they really do have a contribution to bring, but their frustration, as well as that of many teams, is that what they actually say first bears very little resemblance to what they actually mean. It often takes time for them to flesh out their big, future-oriented, complex ideas in ways that make sense to everyone else. So encourage them to talk, and pledge to ask clarifying questions rather than dismiss their thoughts as underdeveloped or too “involved” upon first hearing them.
A simple, “Just keep talking – this is what I’m hearing you say right now. Is that what you’re trying to communicate?” will go a long way in helping them feel that you are trying to understand them. When Creatives feel unappreciated or dismissed, they will often develop a cynical, passive-aggressive approach in which their “Hulk” weapon system eventually surfaces. So, when it comes to Creatives, give them permission to dream big, make sure they know it’s okay to be wrong sometimes, and commit to asking clarifying questions in order to pull out their clarity of vision around future ideas, dangers, and opportunities. It’s a good idea to seek their input second, after Nurturers, as their voice is the second quietest of the five.
Rules of Engagement: Guardians
- Keep asking the difficult questions
- We promise to stay engaged as long as we can
The first thing to keep in mind when dealing with a Guardian is to make sure you and the team are committed to embracing the difficult questions that Guardians will inevitably ask. Guardians are incredible stewards of organizations, processes, traditions, finances, resources, and plans. While others tend to see their constant desire to vet ideas and conduct due diligence as a “party pooper” mentality, Guardian input is crucial. Encourage them to do their due diligence. Be honest, and admit, “Look, we know yours is a really hard role because it often requires pumping the brakes on ideas and projects, which is especially hard when all the other future voices are so excited about changing the world, and they think you’re pouring cold water on their ideas. But we need you to do the due diligence. Please ask as many questions as you need to, and we promise to stay engaged for as long as we possibly can.”
The rest of the team may still get frustrated from time to time, but when Guardians feel valued for their often unpopular, but necessary contribution, they will lean into their expertise. The worst thing you can do is silence the voice of a Guardian who is trying to ask the important, difficult questions about details, safety measures, profitability, and readiness. In the end, keeping their voice active and thriving will keep your team healthy, profitable, on-time, and out of the pitfalls you may otherwise stumble into without them.
Since their weapon system is “interrogation,” help the Guardian work on tone and tact. Learning how to convey their strongly held opinions and ask the sensitive or difficult questions, will do wonders for helping the rest of the team feel safe enough to embrace their important skills. They’re the ones that will keep you from losing money and make sure the project stays on track. If you do a good job of getting them integrated into the rest of the team, then their seal of approval will always grant massive credibility to your initiatives when presenting the latest change or vision to the rest of the organization. That’s because not only do people know they are committed to ruthless and rigorous vetting, but also because Guardians make up 30% of the population. Think about that for a moment. That means that leaders who fail to utilize key Guardian and Nurturer voices (those two voices are highly under-represented in top-level organizational leadership), miss out on understanding and speaking to the concerns of over 70% of their population.
Just remember, the biggest threat to a Guardian’s influence will be the way their lack of tone and tact can come across as sharp relational criticism, even though it’s rarely meant in that way. So, if you want to get the best out of your Guardians, encourage them to ask the difficult questions, promise to embrace their process of rigorous inquiry as much as possible, and help them work on their tone and tact for the sake of connecting better with others.
Stay Tuned For Part 2!
With Part I in the bag, we hope you learned a few tips and tricks about how to create an environment in which all voices can be heard and appreciated for their contributions! In our next installment of this mini-series, we’ll take a look at the Rules of Engagement for Connectors and Pioneers, and tie it all together. Until next time!
This was originally posted by GiANT Worldwide and I wanted to share it here as well. If you’re interested in learning more about how your voice and the rules of engagement affect your leadership, I’m happy to schedule a meeting to discuss. Just click the contact button and let me know!