Have you ever presented an idea to a group for feedback – but instead of a lively debate just got back a lackluster or even blank reaction?
This is a common dynamic, those that are attending your meeting are often arriving to your meeting distracted by their own projects. In these days of virtual meetings, participants might be multitasking or even offline without your knowing it. You may be tempted to blame your audience – I’ve heard my client’s complain that meeting participants were “asleep at the wheel”, “bumps on the log” or “just not the sharpest tools in the shed”.
Don’t give in or give up on your audience! instead, remember as the leader of the project it is your job to get the deliberation going that inspires committed and aligned action no matter how many challenges you face in terms of your audience’s lack of interest, will or ability.
Here are a 3 practical tips to help you break through the radio silence:
1. Set the context for deliberation.
Before you ask for feedback on your ideas, ask for active participation and leadership
It could sound something like this:
I’m going to present a DRAFT proposal to get us going. I’m not looking for a rubber stamp, i’m looking for feedback.This is our chance to work together to deliberate the best course of action. I need everybody’s 2 cents, if you agree with my proposal great, let’s hear why. If you have concerns, let’s hear them. That’s what we are here for.
2. Don’t ask if there are any concerns. instead assume there are concerns and ask what they are.
Everybody take a minute and write down the 1 thing you like most about my proposal and your #1 biggest concern.
Let’s hear what is resonating first. I know you’ve got something we need to hear – Mary, what are you liking?
Now let’s hear some concerns? Joe, what’s on your page?
What’s the one thing we could change or add that would most strengthen this proposal? Would 2 or 3 please share their ideas?
3. Ask for a visible show of commitment.
Don’t let your participants remain anonymous, instead find a way for each person to visibly show their commitment or lack of commitment.
I’d like to take a flash poll to see how lined up we are now that we’ve debated and amended the proposal. If you are happy with the proposed plan please give a thumbs up signal to indicate that you stand behind the proposal as it is. If you still have some concerns you think need to be addressed before we move forward, just indicate that by giving a thumbs sideways signal. Please don’t hesitate to show either a thumbs up or thumbs sideways, this is just a way for me to get a quick sense of the way the group is leaning.
If there is time left in the meeting continue to probe:
Let’s hear from a few of you that have a thumbs sideways first. Josh, what’s got you on the fence?
How about hearing from a few with thumbs up – Carla what’s got you convinced?
If meeting time has run out, close with this:
I’ll take note of your thumbs sideways and follow up with you after the meeting about it. I can’t promise to resolve your concerns but I’ll do what I can.
We hope these tips help. By the way, if this post is hitting home for you or totally missing the mark – don’t be a bump on a log, let us know by commenting.
Jen and Patty
P.S. If you find these tips helpful you might be interested in our new program for managers: A Year in the Life: A Virtual Learning Lab for Managers being launched in January.
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