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Business tips: How to encourage employee participation in team meetings

Submitted on Monday, 12th November 2012

Small business owners and managers know that the most effective meetings they participate in are those where all team members make a meaningful contribution and feel empowered to have an opinion and express it. How can you ensure that all of your meetings have full employee participation?

Avoid dominating

You may feel that you have much to contribute in certain meetings but it’s important for the flow and success of a meeting that one person avoids dominating the discussion too much. The Harvard Business Review team believes domination “not only gives others less time to speak up but also conveys that only your ideas are important”. Make your point and then let the discussion flow among others before contributing again. Set time limits if you think it’s necessary.

Keep everyone informed

Some people don’t participate in meetings because they don’t have all the information available to them or they didn’t have the chance to prepare properly. If you’re responsible for organising a meeting, try to circulate a brief agenda to all participants at least a few hours beforehand so that everyone has time to prepare and research if necessary.

Maintain a positive tone

The more introverted or shy members of your team may need some encouragement to speak up, as fear could be holding them back. “Demonstrate that all ideas are valuable by restating important points,” says the Harvard Business Review. “Thank people who are usually reticent for their comments.”

Ask open-ended questions

While you’re hosting or chairing a meeting, you may notice that one or two participants have not spoken up yet. Ask an open-ended question, preferably recognising their experience or expertise around the topic, to get them involved in the discussion. For example: ‘You’ve worked with this program before – what are its main strengths and would you recommend it for wider use?’

No wrong answers

As fear is often the strongest barrier people need to overcome when speaking up at a meeting, especially the fear that their idea or opinion will be criticised, create an environment where there are no wrong answers. Ensure that everyone feels empowered to speak up, as often a ‘wrong’ idea or opinion could very well lead to the ‘right’ one.

Victorian Chamber runs a one-day Effective Meetings training program to demonstrate how well-planned and professionally conducted meetings can deliver significant benefits for your team and organisation overall. Click here for more information.

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