Lead Change is a leadership media destination with a unique editorial focus on driving change within organizations, teams, and individuals. Lead Change, a division of Weaving Influence, publishes twice monthly with SmartBrief. Today’s post is by Mikaela Kiner.
I spent 15 years as an HR leader in technology companies. As an introvert who was frequently the only woman in the room, I knew all too well what it was like to keep cautiously quiet in meetings.
Women often second-guess themselves, self-censor and resist speaking up unless they’re certain they have something unique and important to share. The same is true for anyone who isn’t in the majority on your team or in your organization.
Leaders often underestimate the impact they have on making sure all voices get heard. You may have a diverse team, but are conversations dominated by a few vocal members? If people from underestimated groups don’t feel welcome making suggestions and sharing ideas, you’re leaving a lot of creativity and innovation on the table. More voices mean better products and services with broader appeal — in other words, a greater chance of success.
The best leaders I’ve worked with knew how to draw people out and demonstrate that their contributions were valued. They were my role models for inclusive facilitation skills. Here’s what I learned from them.
Give people the floor
Our culture has become so driven by interruption that people often cut each other off without even noticing. Research shows that women speak less and are interrupted more than men in meetings.
If you’re part of a conversation where someone gets interrupted, make sure you give them back the floor. This can be as easy as saying, “Hold on, I’d like to hear Mary finish her thought.”
Make room for introverts
Introverts need time to process and reflect. They won’t always be first to raise their hands, and they definitely won’t be the ones to answer a question before you’ve finished asking it. Introverts are less likely than extroverts to interject in fast-paced conversations, which can leave them silenced.
Make a point of asking the introverts on your team for their input when they don’t speak up. Invite them to share what’s on their mind if you see by their body language or facial expression that they have something to add.
Address inappropriate comments
All too often, someone makes an inappropriate joke or remark in a meeting and no one says anything. They might be kidding and not intend to hurt anyone’s feelings, but behavior is about the impact it has. As the leader, you’ve got to set the tone by speaking up. You can do this without shaming or blaming. Use phrases like, “I didn’t find that funny,” “I’m surprised to hear you say that,” or “Hold on, let’s rewind.”
It won’t take long before people recognize what you expect from them and change their behavior. If you don’t confront inappropriate comments, you’re condoning them, which will negatively affect your team’s culture.
Good leaders don’t just accept disagreement, they seek it. You’d be surprised how many people still think it’s not OK to disagree with their manager. Others may be afraid of voicing a nonconformist opinion or going against the grain. Invite your team to disagree with you, challenge you and poke holes in your ideas. The more you can normalize dissent, the more people will open up and share their concerns. Open dialogue about problems and risk helps teams build trust and identify blind spots.
These are just some of the ways you can make room for everyone’s contributions to be shared and all voices to be heard.
Mikaela Kiner is a founder/CEO, executive coach, and author. In 2015, she founded Reverb to help companies create healthy, inclusive cultures that engage and inspire employees. Prior to Reverb, Mikaela held HR leadership roles at Northwest companies including Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon, PopCap Games, and Redfin. Her book “Female Firebrands: Stories and Techniques to Ignite Change, Take Control, and Succeed in the Workplace” will be released in January 2020.
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