By Sarah LaFon
Borrowman Baker, LLC, BV Staffing + Consulting
As a BV practice leader, you want meetings that promote high-levels of communication, productivity, and efficiency from your staff. However, your team is likely composed of both introverts and extroverts who don’t respond equally to the same meeting style. While everybody can have valuable input to offer in meetings, the reality is that it doesn’t always happen.
Research indicates that “in a typical six-person meeting, two people do more than 60% of the talking. Increase the size of the group, and the problem only gets worse.” This is called the “uneven communication effect.”
Extroverts bring a lot of enthusiasm and candor to a meeting; they love brainstorming and work well “on the fly”. They feel frustrated when team members don’t respond and engage them in a similar way.
Introverts rarely speak up until they feel comfortable enough to contribute. For them, this usually means taking time to think things through and prepare, even if only for a few minutes. Brainstorming can feel like “pressure” and a bit overwhelming.
So, what are some solutions for your meetings? How do you get introverts to open up and extroverts to slow down and listen?
Let’s start with what doesn’t work: Telling people what to do. I.e. “You there: speak up more!”; “You, on the other hand, have more self-control; talk a little less!” This is a generalization, of course, but extroverts can lack the self-awareness to realize when they are dominating the conversation, and introverts are still going to need some prep-time.
Professor Leigh Thompson (Professor of Dispute Resolution at Northwestern Kellogg) has come up with a creative meeting technique that has great results: Brainwriting.
“Brainstorming is the simultaneous oral generation of ideas.”
“Brainwriting is the simultaneous written generation of ideas.”
The benefit is that when you are writing ideas, no one can interrupt or block your thoughts.
To begin, ask everybody in the meeting to take cards and write as many ideas as possible for 10 minutes. Each idea is written on its own card. A good rule to adopt for this exercise is: No guessing and no confessions. This means that nobody signs their cards or identifies who wrote any of the ideas. It should be a meritocracy of ideas rather than a personality contest.
Tape the cards on the wall, review the ideas for 10-15 minutes, and then vote on the most exciting ideas. The result is that the overly-dominant people are neutralized, and the normally-shy people are energized. Every team member has an equal chance to have their ideas validated and put into practice.
One of the top motivators we hear in job candidates is the desire to feel like their work has a meaningful impact. With just a little creativity, it is possible to maximize the input you get from each of your BV team members (no matter their personality). Each person will get their chance to feel both “heard” and impactful.