finding your voice in meetings

Have you ever walked out of a meeting with a mouth full of thoughts you didn’t express? Experienced that annoying niggle of disappointment that a decision was made without consideration of your unexpressed opinion? Ever sat in a meeting and felt inadequate to contribute?

Yeah. Me too.

It was only when I started coaching new staff on my team about how to engage in our broader staff team meetings that I became more aware of these behaviour patterns for myself.

Get heard early. 

Nancy Beach in her book “Gifted to Lead” speaks of the importance of hearing your voice in the room and doing that as soon as possible. She suggests that the longer you don’t speak the harder it becomes to speak. She recommends making a contribution early – even if it’s just to greet people or respond to other’s early input – to break the ice and clear the way for your further participation. It’s a great strategy.

Don’t wait to be asked. 

I’ve heard others say (and I’ve been there myself) that they don’t feel their opinion is invited or even welcomed in meetings. Might I suggest that your inclusion in the meeting IS your invitation to contribute. You are rarely requested to attend a meeting so that you can observe it. You’re in the room because you have something to say about the content of the meeting or because you have something to learn from the content. Either way, your statements or questions are expected on the basis of your calendar request. Generally speaking, if you’re in the room it’s because you’re meant to contribute. Don’t wait for a further invitation.

Embrace conflict and humility. 

It’s a well-beaten drum of mine but conflict is an essential component of effective anything! Meetings are certainly no exception. Conflict of ideas will make your team or company stronger and better. But it requires humility to see that happen. Be ready to have your ideas contradicted without taking it personally. They can still like you and disagree with your perspective. An un-adopted idea doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t like you so much as they just don’t think it’s the best idea on the table. Don’t let the knock back of one idea prevent you from offering any further ideas.

What about you? What difficulties do you encounter in finding your voice in meetings? What strategies have you or your teams utilised to be more effective at hearing the room and maximising the collective wisdom, creativity and talent of your team?

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