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Creating a culture of trust at work

How to structure meetings that encourage expression of diverse points of view

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Meetings should be properly planned in advance and in a way that ensures everybody can contribute

Managers must listen to the quietest people on the team, according to a Linkedin post that went viral recently.

If the reason for this is to hear diverse points of view, then it’s a given managers should want to hear from everybody. 

But the post asks managers to approach people individually who haven’t spoken up in a meeting. 

I question this advice as it can lead to more work for the manager, and the team as a whole doesn’t have a chance to react to the ideas put forward in private. 

It can lead to confusion about the best way to get an idea heard and cause unnecessary politics. 

Instead, I prefer to give everybody time to think, improve the standard of debate and ensure all voices can be heard – even if not everyone wants to speak up in a meeting.

I work with an organisation that lives by values including “diversity”.

The company doesn’t discriminate on the grounds of race or gender but this policy has widened to consider neuro-diversity. It wants to ensure everybody has time to think and have their voices heard even if they couldn’t speak in a group. 

This is what we came up with

  • Meetings are for making decisions so all meetings will have questions as agenda items. 
  • Each agenda item (question) is owned by one person attending the meeting.
  • That person must provide all information participants will need at least 24 hours before any meeting in a shared folder, clearly labelled with the date and name of the meeting. 
  • Questions/comments can be shared on the documents or sent to the agenda owner and only that person up until the meeting starts. These are not confidential unless that is specifically asked for and this should be unusual.
  • The agenda owner should start by explaining why the question is important and sharing the feeling of the room as they understand it before opening to debate. 

After a few weeks of introducing this method, I asked the team members how they felt it was going. They liked it because the meetings were more productive and interesting. They no longer felt like they were wasting their time in meetings when there was so much else to be doing. 

It was a success, and yet most places continue to have miserable meetings – boring presentations delivered by people who seem disconnected from the reality of people’s daily work-lives; meetings where the real questions go unasked and the real issues unidentified.

Meetings that create more meetings.  

Dawn Metcalfe is a Dubai-based workplace culture advisor

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