Have you ever lead a meeting and you ask a question to gain input and you get…”CRICKETS”?
Now more than ever, in our soon-to-be post pandemic society, many leaders are having more trouble engaging teams in substantive collaborative conversation.
Perhaps these tips will help you power up your dialogues.
Give People Time to Orient Themselves…Yes, you as a leader may have been carrying the thought in your mind for weeks, perhaps even months. You aren’t doing yourself any favors by bringing up a topic you’ve ruminated over to a group who hasn’t had the same benefit. Give people runway to be thoughtful, before, during, and after the meeting. Try announcing the idea ahead of time and set the expectation that you would want feedback, ideas, and questions. In a few days reconvene them to discuss collectively. This allows the team to be prepared and put their best foot forward.
Ask questions… One of my favorite books is by author Dr. Marilee Adams, “Change Your Questions Change your Life“. In this work, Adams explains the difference between judging questions and learning questions. As a leader, it’s critical for you to know how to ask questions that lead to learning and idea generation rather than judging the person or the idea. It’s also important not to ask all the questions at the same time it jumbles the conversation and doesn’t allow you to focus. Be clear about your desired out come to best frame your question, but above all be curious. It will serve you well.
Hold the silence – Culturally, in America, we don’t “do” silence well. Often we ask a question and proceed to talk over possible answers, mostly because we are not comfortable with the silence. Here’s a test – right now.
Time yourself right now and be silent for 30 seconds.
Did your mind wander? Were you able to be present? When was the last time you asked a question a team member and waited silently for an answer?
If you have difficulty with silence, try this trick. When asking a truly thoughtful question, if you are met with silence, sing the Jeopardy theme song in your head. Seriously, sing the song. Practicing silence is inviting and gives people permission to join in the conversation. It shows you really want to hear what they have to say.
Don’t offer your opinion – Remember, you’ve been dreaming of this problem for days, weeks or even years. As a leader, if you offer your thoughts and opinions too early in the dialogue you muddy the waters and leave yourself susceptible to group think.
Don’t discount anyone’s ideas or recommendations–
If you’re truly looking for collaboration, don’t discount any idea. Consider even making rule that there are no bad ideas. Gather all the ideas up rank them in a methodical way. Then consider each idea equally to show respect for the person and their idea. If this makes you uncomfortable, appoint a facilitator so that you can participate. Once the ideas are ranked, discuss feasibility of the ideas. Otherwise, you never know what you might miss if you discount an idea as it being bad.
Facilitating collaboration can be a difficult thing especially when you don’t agree. But as s skilled masterful leader, you’ll find a way to include everyone in the solution development process, making them more engaged, attached, and committed to the outcome.