Silent team members shortchange themselves (How to help them speak up)

Musing for:

Silent team members shortchange themselves

This leader already knew what to do. But she still asked for my advice.

“I have a certain group of people who won’t speak when they’re in a larger meeting. How can I get them to participate?”

I’ve often had clients work through their own hesitance to speak in meetings. In this case, I was not coaching the silent attendees; I was coaching their leader. After asking a few clarifying questions to understand the situation, I thought that her idea to travel to visit the team in person and speak with them individually was a good idea. The underlying factors are different for different people. And the differences between individuals — even those from the same culture — is usually greater than the differences between cultures.

As you consider your team members’ tendency to silence (or maybe even your own) here are some things to look for:

➡️ Hybrid meetings: Are facilitators noticing the “I’d like to speak” facial expression and body language of in-person attendees more than those remote? Are the silent members attending without video? Does your meeting platform have chat and/or virtual gesture features that might help?

➡️ Skill mismatch: Do the silent members hold a lesser position or title than those who speak up? Would individual coaching encourage them to contribute insights that are distinct to their positions?

➡️ Seniority mismatch: To long-time members tend to dominate the conversation? How might the facilitator graciously transition the floor to newer team members who haven’t yet established a habit of speaking?

➡️ Unsafe environment: Have previous interactions resulted in ridicule or shaming for those who share a contrarian, differently-informed, or less-polished viewpoint? Consider how you may actively curtail mockery and encourage participation of minority voices.

➡️ Language or culture barriers: Are multi-lingual members slower to turn their thoughts into words in the predominant language of the meeting? Have they been trained by their culture to show deference in a way that appears to be a lack of boldness? Again, the differences between individuals is often greater than the differences between cultures, so don’t assume here.

And regardless of the underlying reason, let your team member know that remaining silent in meetings can hurt both their own career advancement and the ability of the organization to make fully informed decisions. Work with them to identify what changes will help them participate more actively.

Through my coaching, I help people overcome their resistance to speaking up. As a leader, you can offer the same coaching to your team members.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *