Bridging the participation gap

Loose lips sink ships, and tight lips sink meetings.

When I made a brand presentation recently, I realised that it was only the marketing head of the company and I who were deeply engaged in a conversation in a room filled with eight other people from both teams, who were just listening to our conversation for two hours straight. I later asked my team “why did none of you contribute to the conversation” and they replied, “since you were anyway making sense, we did not know what to say”.

It got me thinking that if we could get more feedback or engagement from the teams, then probably we can have a stronger understanding of building better brands. So this is when I began to apply different approaches to engage with my team, especially during our brainstorming session.

And here are the top four ways to be more conversational:
1. Creating a safe space

In New York, I was part of a project group, where we began our meetings by asking each of us to rate our moods, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest. We did this so we could understand each other and how much contribution was expected. We knew if we made a mistake, we weren’t going to be judged or embarrassed. It helped us build trust, feel cared for, and surprisingly want to push ourselves to balance out with those who were not feeling up to it.

2. Harness the power of diverse ideas

In one of our discussions last week, my team and I were thinking of how we could enhance our brand image, improve the culture, and present ourselves differently. While the team was pumped up with the topic, it was clear that they were slightly hesitant to share that our brand needed some reworking. Until, I pointed out the one thing I felt could be improved, after which they all pitched in, making it a very fruitful discussion. Sometimes owning and criticising our work can help others open up and contribute more to newer ideas.

3. Asking the right questions

For one of our client presentations, I started the meeting by asking, “If you were a brand, which brand would you represent?” The question was not only an icebreaker, but it helped everyone understand their teammates apart from creating relevance to what I was presenting. Later, during our break, I overheard a lot of people discussing or laughing over their choice of brand chosen for themselves 🙂.

4. Switch!

I recently learnt how one of the companies switched roles between their employees in departments they were each working in. At first, people were confused as it was not their space of expertise. In trying to figure out their new role, they not only understood different processes but gave an outside-in approach to providing solutions.

Participation makes an organisation more dynamic

Regardless of being an introvert, extrovert or ambivert, in a discussion, everyone is thinking, listening, and has an opinion. It’s not always about sharing your opinion or giving feedback, but it’s about being curious enough to know more. No matter what your question is, it’s about having the courage to ask. Asking makes you confident and empowered. While it also encourages others to speak up. So go ahead and participate more. Trust me, the knowledge you uncover is immense.

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