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A small question to make a big improvement in your meetings

Today I held a videoconference discussion with 14 people. It was the first of seven weekly discussions we do in the Software Leader Seminar

After the quick introductions, I asked this small question, “In many meetings, I find that only some people talk, and others are silent. What guides could we invent so that everyone can fully participate?”

Then, as a group, we came up with some guides/agreements we wanted to experiment with in our meetings

I wonder what would happen if you asked that question at the beginning of your next meeting.

Yes, it took some time to discuss… but given how much time we spend in meetings, wouldn’t it be great if they were less… dreadful? 🙂

The guides invented by this group

Today the group invented ten guides they want to try out in our future calls:

  1. We will raise our hand, or unmute our mic, to indicate that we wish to speak
  2. We will leave space for others to speak before talking
  3. We give others permission to tell us that we’re talking too much, so others voices can be heard
  4. When we are curious about what someone is thinking, we will ask them for their ideas
  5. Participation comes in many forms: listening, thinking, talking, nodding, giving thumbs-up, smiling, using the chat, etc.
  6. Participation is always optional
  7. When we are done speaking we’ll say “over and out” or “I’m done”, which passes the conversation back to the group
  8. We will quickly review these agreements at the beginning of each meeting
  9. Every few sessions we will ask “are these still working for us”?
  10. We can add/change/remove agreements anytime we wish because they are ours

I never know what guides people will invent, but this list is a wonderful place to start.

More importantly, these are not “rules” imposed by a “leader” or “teacher”.

They represent the group’s choices.

The group owns them, so the group can change them at any time.

Does your group have guides to ensure everyone can contribute in meetings?

What magic could happen if you asked that small question in your next meeting?

Write me back, I’d love to hear!


About Marcus Blankenship

Where other technical coaches focus on process or tools, I focus on the human aspects of your Programmer to Manager transition. I help you hire the right people, create the right culture, and setup the right process which achieves your goals. Managing your team isn't something you learned in college. In fact, my clients often tell me "I never prepared for this role, I always focused on doing the work". If you're ready to improve your leadership, process and team, find out how I can help you.

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