How to Stop the Same Few People From Dominating Your Meetings

In: BlogDate: Jun 20, 2022By: Henry Stewart

Wouldn’t it be nice if your whole team could find their voice and participate in meetings? Liberating Structures can help — 33 methods of that avoid one person dominating a conversation and give everybody a voice.

In this blog, Henry goes through two of the most popular methods to get you started.

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Do you ever go to meetings where one or two people dominate, and the more introverted may get to say nothing at all?

Some years back Google launched an initiative, Project Aristotle, to find out what was needed for the perfect team. They wondered if it would be the teams with the most capable people, or those who were friends outside work.

In fact, they found that their most effective teams were based on psychological safety and an equal voice for team members.

For her book Multipliers, Liz Wiseman explored the difference between managers who multiply the talents of their people and those that diminish them. She found that the multipliers typically talk for less than 10% of the time at the meetings they organise. Those who diminish speak for 30% or more.

Which is true of you?

Three years ago, frustrated by the endless time our clients seemed to spend in meetings, I put out a call for ways to make meetings more effective.

David Heath responded with the concept of 'Liberating Structures', 33 methods that give a truly equal voice to all participants. These structures have now become a key element of virtually every meeting and event I organise.

Here are a couple of simple structures that you could use at your next event:

124All

You can use 124All at any event, whether virtual or real life. Pose a question or prompt, or whatever the next topic is:

1: Let people take 1 minute to reflect on the issue.

2: Put people in pairs and give them 2 minutes to discuss the issue.

4: Move the pairs into 4s and give 4 minutes to discuss it.

All: Bring people together to talk (if a virtual meeting, preferably in chat).

This way everybody gets to talk and think about the issue. Those less confident of their opinions will get to hear back from others before sharing with the full group.

Have you ever taken that minute to reflect before launching into a topic? I find it isn’t just introverts that appreciate it; over 75% of the people in my sessions say they find it valuable.

TRIZ

TRIZ stands for Teoriya Resheniya Izobretatelskikh Zadach, which is Russian for the Theory of Solving Ingenious Problems.

In TRIZ you look at what result you want to achieve and then pose the opposite. At Happy we wanted to improve our financial performance. So, asking the opposite, we asked “What would cause Happy to fail and go bankrupt?”.

Round 1: Explore all the things that could cause that negative effect. Use Post-its (or, online, a package like Jamboard). You might use 124All for this or you could just group people into 3s or 4s.

Round 2: Look at which of those negative outcomes you or your organisation is actually doing. Use the same groups.

Round 3: Take 1 or 2 of these actions and …stop doing them.

At Happy one of the things that would cause bankruptcy was not talking enough to our customers. The outcome of Round 3: talk more to our customers!

Learn more Liberating Structures with our workshops

These are only 2 of the 33 structures. Experience these and discover more at our 2.5 hour Introduction (4 structures) or our full-day Immersion Workshop (8 to 10 structures).

It is time to end dull and boring meetings, where a few people dominate and involve everybody with Liberating Structures.

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Henry Stewart, Founder and Chief Happiness Officer

Henry is founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Happy Ltd, originally set up as Happy Computers in 1987. Inspired by Ricardo Semler’s book Maverick, he has built a company which has won multiple awards for some of the best customer service in the country and being one of the UK’s best places to work.

Henry was listed in the Guru Radar of the Thinkers 50 list of the most influential management thinkers in the world. "He is one of the thinkers who we believe will shape the future of business," explained list compiler Stuart Crainer.

His first book, Relax, was published in 2009. His second book, the Happy Manifesto, was published in 2013 and was short-listed for Business Book of the Year.

You can find Henry on LinkedIn and follow @happyhenry on Twitter.

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