3 Ways to Generate Dialogue in Meetings

I often hear leaders say “I want my people to contribute more in our team meetings.”

What most leaders don’t realize is that limited conversation is often the result of their individual behaviors. For example, I recently attended a client’s team meeting and noticed that he would ramble on for several minutes at a time and then ask “any questions?” and without hesitation begin talking again.

And, he didn’t even know he was doing it.

Want to generate more conversation in your meetings?

Try these three ideas.

Ask open ended questions instead of closed ended questions. Questions such as “Do you think this training will help us?” has only two possible answers – Yes or No. Phrased differently, “How do you think this training will help us?” will generate fuller responses. If you decide to start a conversation with closed-ended questions, follow-up immediately with an open-ended question to give momentum to the conversation.

Lead with questions, then pause. It often takes people 10-15 seconds to process a question. For some, that may result in an uncomfortable length of silence. Try this as an example. With no one around ask a question. Look at your watch and time yourself for 15 seconds. 10-15 seconds is a seemingly long time. But, the best leaders, communicators, and negotiators are OK with silence because they know it’s a tool to prompt a response. Give people time to process your open-ended questions by pausing.

Be aware of others’ body language. People often telegraph intent through their body language. In some cases you may see people interested in contributing, but they may be uncomfortable speaking up without hearing others speak first. If you see body language that implies someone is interested in speaking, make eye contact with the person. That often prompts a response. Or, if it doesn’t, simply ask “what are your thoughts?”

The challenge in too many meetings is that leaders look for agreement instead of commitment. Agreement typically results in people simply nodding their heads in meetings and then failing to take action afterwards.

Commitment, on the other hand, results in action.

And commitment only comes from dialogue, conversation, debate, and conflict.

Say tuned for a more in-depth post on agreement versus commitment.

In the mean time, try the ideas above.

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