As a leader, how to make sure everyone has a say

Leaders need to have eyes and ears in the back of their heads…and the left side…and the right side too.

That’s because, when you lead a group discussion or other team-building exercise, you must be aware of each person’s level of engagement.

More to the point, it’s important you hear from everyone in the room.

Since you’re the leader and in charge of the situation, it’s your responsibility to keep tabs on each person. It’s unlikely someone else within the group will stop and say, “I don’t think Phil has spoken much so far. Phil, what do you think?”

No. It’s your job to bring Phil into the discussion. Otherwise, the moment will come and go, Phil won’t talk and everyone will disperse none the wiser.

In the new book, The Expertise Economyauthors Kelly Palmer and David Blake argue employers need more than a say — they need to make participation and constant learning a “competitive advantage.”

They write:

“Often, the learning is ‘event-driven,’ meaning that people are taken out of their jobs to learn new skills, or a company will use a blended approach where they learn both through more structured learning and also on the job.

Airbnb is a good example of a company that has embraced a strong learning culture by providing their employees with an innovative blended learning program for managers and leaders as well as offering them a variety of informal online learning resources for all their employees.”

As you provide employees with a chance to gain new skills and experiences, stay engaged as a facilitator and make sure every voice is heard.

Here are more ways to do that:

  • Listen with your ears and your eyes
    • As the discussion or event unfolds, keep close watch on everyone and make a mental tally of who has spoken and who remains silent.
  • Don’t be afraid to call someone out
    • Would some people rather slink into the corner and never participate? Of course. But you’re the leader, and you want to make everyone contributes.
    • “Celia, we haven’t heard from you yet. Any thoughts on the conversation?” Even if Celia would prefer to keep quiet, you did your best to bring her into the fold and prove you value what she has to say.
  • Don’t be afraid to shut somebody up
    • On the other end of the introvert/extrovert spectrum, you may have people who contribute too As a leader, it’s appropriate to say, “Thanks for all of your thoughts, Michael. Let’s hear from a few other people who haven’t shared any opinions yet.”
  • Sometimes, people need a nudge
    • Often, employees (and clients) only “speak when spoken to,” as the expression goes. But if you call upon them, you might unlock something special and add a meaningful voice to the room. The only way to find out is to give a little push.
  • Same goes for conference calls and video chats
    • Whether everyone is in the same room or dialing in from three different continents, the rules of leadership apply. Give each person a chance to speak or at least let people know you value their opinions.

As a leader, you double as a facilitator. Stay alert, observe who talks and who doesn’t and do your best to let everyone have a say.

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