Are extroverts running your business?

A young boy nerd shouts at the top of his voice to his co-worker through a megaphone trying to talk some sense into him but he is not listening and is ignoring him. The young nerds are dressed in bowties and glasses. Retro styling.

Last week at the gym, in the middle of my Turbo Kick class (A.K.A. torture class), our cheerful instructor asked us: “what number finale do you want to do?” “Number 51,” yelled an ambitious classmate with an extra loud voice that overshadowed a few of us with softer voices.

“Number 51 it is!” yelled back the instructor. And on we went. Loud voice heard … decision made … Let’s go!

I see this quite a bit in the leadership workshops I teach. When I ask for questions or comments in front of the whole group there are some managers who are very comfortable speaking out, and some who would rather crawl under the table.

It got me thinking how this same dynamic takes place every day, in meetings all over the world — whether face-to-face or virtual. The loudest voice gets heard. The decision is made. Let’s move on!

Are these loudest voices also influencing which projects get approved? Which ideas progress? What direction our businesses take?

If you are a leader, project manager, meeting facilitator or trainer, here are a few ways that help level the playing field. I use these in my workshops and it only takes just a little more effort to make sure every voice and idea gets heard.

When asking a group for ideas or concerns:

1. Start with SOLO BRAINSTORMING first. Give everyone a few minutes to process and write down their own thoughts.

2. Next do a ROUND ROBIN. Each person, one at a time, is invited to share their ideas or concerns, then on to the next person. If anyone wants to pass, they simply say “pass”.

3. Break into smaller groups if the group is large (more than 12) and still do steps 1 and 2.

The same dynamic happens when group ideas are being captured on a flip chart of white board. It’s The POWER OF THE PEN:

Problem: If a group is at a flip chart or white board with one person as the scribe, that person has the power of the pen. They decide what gets written (or not), what gets documented (or not), and ultimately what ideas move forward (or not). I’ve seen this many, many times.

Solution: Instead, let each person have the pen to write their own ideas. The first person writes their comment and passes the pen to the next person. There is no “Pen Dictator.”

Take the time and effort to hear everyone’s voice. This leads to a more inclusive, democratic, and empowering team … and business.

For more information about leadership and innovation workshops, give me a call.

And the next time someone in Turbo Kick class yells out “number 51!” Take a quick class vote. There may be many of us who really don’t want to do #51.

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