Leaders Let Their People Speak Up
This week I spent a few minutes watching a short video by Susan Cain. Susan is an attorney by training who gained fame for her meaningful book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.”
Watching her video and thinking about her book, I reflected back upon my own evolution in learning about introversion and extroversion. When I first asked a facilitator at Georgetown Law to administer and interpret the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) for our eight-person team, I had no idea how the results would change my approach toward meetings.
As I have written previously here, I learned that introverts need time to prepare for meetings in order to bring their best selves to those meetings.
That’s why I began always circulating agendas if I was running a meeting and encouraging others to develop and circulate agendas for meetings they were running. Reviewing agendas prior to meetings allowed the introverts among the group to think fully ahead of time and bring their best ideas and solutions to the table.
In the video I watched this week, Susan also talked about the importance of speaking up at meetings. I know that during my career, I strived to keep quiet when I was the boss. I did not want my opinions or conclusions to influence the comments or ideas of others. Often we went around the table soliciting ideas and I spoke last. This produced more openness among my teammates, both the introverts and the extroverts.
Susan‘s point is that everyone should be encouraged to speak up at meetings. If we as leaders know who the introverts are among our teammates, we can make an extra effort to elicit comments from them. However, Susan added a suggestion I had not considered previously. People who speak up at the beginning of meetings usually have their ideas considered more seriously than those who wait until the end of meetings.
Why is that?
At the beginning of meetings, people tend to pay more attention. They are
Their ears are more open. As meetings progress, people tend to lose focus and interest. Studies have shown that teammates who articulate their ideas at the beginning of meetings tend to be taken more seriously than those who decide to wait until later during the meetings.
Susan‘s comments apply certainly to introverts, who have a tendency to be very quiet during meetings. However, I believe they apply for all of us. So the next time you are asked to attend a meeting, I encourage you to get ready ahead of time and resolve to speak up early.
If you are leading the meeting, make sure people feel encouraged to express themselves – and preferably early in the meeting, or early during the discussion of a specific agenda item.
People will be taken more seriously and their ideas will be considered more thoroughly if they speak up early. You as the leader can help make that happen.