Why Your Confidence Does Not Replace Someone Else’s Experience
Have you been to a meeting in person or on Zoom, where one, two, or three people dominate the discussion? They talk as if they are speaking for the group. They talk with such confidence as if it could replace someone else’s experience.
As I previously reported in Forbes, a meeting is of little value if the sole purpose is simply to provide updates. However, there is great benefit in having multiple voices and perspectives shared. So what can you as a leader do to encourage additional people to speak up in the meeting and share their thoughts, which are steeped in experience?
Pass the torch
In advance of the meeting, reach out to a colleague or two and let them know you view them as a subject matter expert in this space. That sentence alone offers support which people seek yet rarely get. Tell them you would personally like for them to share their expertise during the meeting. Request that they either lead that portion of the session (what in adult learning is called ‘situational leadership’) or ask them to chime in at the appropriate time based on their knowledge and experience. Prepare them in advance that if they do not feel comfortable speaking up, you will specifically call on them to weigh in on the subject, as you want to hear what they have to say. Explain to them that their input is valuable and necessary. That is why they are on the team. Finally, ask them What can I, as the group leader, do to make it easier for you to share your expertise and knowledge? You might be surprised at the answer.
Build on responses
Simply calling on random people is what you do in the eighth grade, not in a conference room with professionals. Building on people’s comments and expertise is a great way to make the meeting psychologically safe to voice alternative perspectives and ideas. Consider the following statements when you hear a new concept:
That is an interesting perspective...
I have not thought of that…
I like what I am hearing…
Who wants to work with...to explore this? I think we might be onto something.
Do not just nod your head or say aha and move on to the next person who dominates the discussion with their own voice and ill-placed confidence. Bridge the gap between an idea and action or even a plan for future action. Too many great ideas die at the meeting level. Set up a task force or virtual channel for people to explore the concept and see its merit. Perhaps a Slack channel or email chain to examine if the idea is sustainable and scalable.
Evelyn Rodstein, executive coach, advisor, and premier leadership expert, suggests
doing these three things to cultivate an environment where people feel safe to speak up:
Show your approval
When a subordinate expresses a provocative idea in a meeting, show interest and curiosity with words and body language. For example, lean in when they speak, smile at the suggestion or nod enthusiastically.
Try it out
If possible, try out the idea, possibly with a small pilot.
Celebrate good ideas
If the idea turns out to be better than yours, as the leader, celebrate it! Exclaim enthusiastically, “I love it; let’s do that!” Publicly announce whose idea it was and who deserves the credit. This might encourage others to share ideas in the future.
Creating an environment where every voice is heard will provide an opportunity for kernels of ideas to grow and develop. People need to share their thoughts for this to happen, and a few people cannot dominate discussions.