Depending on who you talk to, meetings are either the worst or best part of the day.
While some enjoy the collaborative productiveness of meetings, others feel that meetings waste time, and that whatever’s being discussed could better be addressed in other ways. Still, meetings remain a “necessary evil” in the business world—and particularly in cultures that embrace inclusiveness. Meetings offer the means to invite, and listen to, input from a broad range of stakeholders.
It’s critical for leaders to be inclusive of employees who are part of their team—all employees. The workplace, and the marketplace, are far more diverse place than they have ever been. Gathering inputs from voices that reflect your market is, therefore, critical for business success.
In Renee Cullinan’s Harvard Business Review article Run Meetings That Are Fair to Introverts, Women, and Remote Workers, she discusses how meetings that are productive for extroverts, men and/or on-site employees might not be inclusive of the many other groups of employees who are integral to your team’s success.
Cullinan talks about the reasons that some groups tend to be ignored: introverts process information through thinking rather than speaking, thus not acting as quickly as extroverts; remote employees are “out of sight, out of mind,” meaning their feedback is not always taken into consideration; and men are seen as having more opinions or ideas to share than women, thus seen in the form of “‘manterrupting’ (a man unnecessarily interrupting a woman) to ‘mansplaining’ (a man interrupting a woman to explain something that she actually knows more about than he does) to ‘bropropriating’ (a man taking credit for a woman’s idea).”
All of these assumptions or stereotypes, of course, circle back to unconscious biases. Cullinan notes that most leaders aren’t intentionally being exclusive, but they’re subconsciously acting on biases that they may or may not know that they have. If you look back on your own past meetings, you may realize that you’ve inadvertently failed to include everyone’s voices. Perhaps you’ve focused primarily on the extroverts who speak first and most often; maybe you’ve allowed a male employee talk over a female employee; or perhaps you haven’t given as much weight to the input of a new, younger, employee.
Don’t beat yourself up for it 一 it happens to the best of us. But, don’t let this behavior continue. An important first step toward inclusion is recognizing your own unconscious bias. The next is taking steps to address these biases by considering what you will do to make sure your meetings are productive for everyone—not just the more vocal employees participants.
Don’t let your unconscious biases drown out the voices of introverted or remote staff members. Be inclusive!
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