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Agile Notes (No. 58)
Maintaining Participation During Meetings
Hello all! Welcome new subscribers! Thanks for joining us. We continue with Collaboration Explained by Jean Tabaka. We are still on Chapter 17: Managing the Meeting Participants.
Huh? But Mike, we already talked about this back in No. 55! I know. I wanted to get into more detail.
Tabaka lists out common scenarios that happen when team-level participation starts to dip. She then provides ideas on how to get the team re-focused. Most of these are reminders to pull out the tools and techniques we’ve been talking about all along. Below is a sampling of scenarios and possible fixes:
Disinterest in the meeting - when two or more people lose interest you have lost the group.
Make sure you have the right participants. Are people there that don’t need to be there? If so, kick them out. :)
Review the Meeting Purpose (one of our tools) - call for an “Agenda Check” to make sure that the team is getting what they really need from the meeting.
Off-topic trips down rabbit holes - or multiple topic threads developing in real time.
Call a time out. Check with the group and confirm that you are hearing two (or more) topics being discussed. Then help the group navigate closing out topic A before moving on to topic B.
Call a time out and confirm with the group that you are capturing notes correctly. Get comfortable calling for a pause. I know, it’s scary and intimidating. But you are trying to help the team get through the stages to Performing. Once you have confirmed the topics you then ask the group how they want to proceed. Two roads diverged on a Zoom call…
People talking over each other - assure the group that everyone will get to speak. I’ve taken a page right out of Lord of the Flies and used a “conch” that would be passed around. When you had the conch, it was your turn to speak. I live in Western New York State where there aren’t a lot of seashells to be had so we would use a substitute like a stress-toy or ball. Now that we are virtual, you have to act as the MC - instruct the group to raise their hands when they want to speak and you will call on them.
This method also lets you make sure those who have not raised their hand get a chance to speak.
Tabaka recommends returning to the team’s Ground Rules to ensure each person is heard. AND - remind the team that they should be self-governing. We could probably lead with this reminder. :)
Group members not participating - Tabaka recommends the following:
Break the group apart into smaller teams in an effort to ensure that everyone gets a chance to share their thoughts. Then come back together as the larger group and share the findings
Ask for comments in a Round Robin format. This would also eliminate the whole “raise your hands and the teacher will call on you” vibe.
Give people space and HOLD THE SPACE OPEN for people to share their thoughts.
One (or a few people) are dominating the meeting - this goes hand in hand with number 4 above. Do you have a senior team member or even the team’s supervisor doing all the talking and making all the decisions? Command and control is dead. We NEED to collective ideas of the TEAM, not just one person. This is shaky ground. But it the whole point of learning and using these tools!
You may have to talk to that supervisor directly
You may have to break the group apart like in number 4.
You may have to ask the offender to leave (off-line of course, not in front of everyone) - sometimes they just can’t help themselves.
Create the tools and then USE the tools. Keep referring back to them. Ask for clarity. Make sure everyone is heard. No one gets left behind (unless it is a manager that wants to stick with old school command and control). Do these things to get to the Performing stage.
What about you? Tell us your meeting horror stories and what you did to overcome challenging situations. What did you do to shepherd your group through it? What kind of tools have you implemented?
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