Team members who don’t get involved don’t feel as invested in the company, but they also don’t feel like the company is invested in them.
As a team leader, that’s the worse news you can get. You want each member of your team to actively participate by sharing their unique talents and informed suggestions. If a member of your team doesn’t do so, it can weaken your team.
Let’s take a look at the top strategies for improving your team’s participation. While we’ll focus on meetings in this post, you can broadly apply these to any interaction you have with your team members, both individually and in a group setting. Let’s get started.
Would you like a printable list of do’s and don’ts to increase team participation? Check this out!
Don’t Invite Everyone
Not everyone needs to be involved in every meeting.
One surefire way to increase participation in your meetings, whether scheduled or impromptu, is to break the team into smaller groups. Depending on the size of your team, your smaller group may consist of only three people, and that’s perfect.
A smaller group meeting offers two benefits:
- In a smaller group, no one gets bored to tears. With a larger group, more topics are covered and these topics may not be relevant to everyone involved in the meeting. This causes meetings to drag on and participants to check out.
- Because you can interact more directly with each person in your meeting, you’ll increase the opportunities for participation. Each person is much more likely to ask questions or add suggestions when it’s just two or three other people attending the meeting. By contrast, if there’s 10+ people in the meeting, not everyone will feel comfortable speaking in front of a large crowd.
Get Them Involved Before the Meeting
Plan your meeting topics together with the group so that everyone has a hand in planning. Your team members are more likely to participate in a meeting that they helped plan.
By getting them involved before you’ve set the meeting agenda in stone, you show your team that you care about their input. It’s a powerful message of inclusion and promotes teamwork.
Whether you have a scheduled meeting every Tuesday or only come together on a need to meet basis, you can still follow the below procedure:
Send out an email to every team member you’d like to invite to the meeting. Ask them one simple question:
What topics would you like discussed in the meeting?
The passive tense is important here because you don’t want them to feel pressured to speak up at the meeting (even if that’s your goal). Instead, you want them to feel that something relevant and important to them will be a topic of discussion in the upcoming meeting.
This will increase the likelihood that they’ll actually attend the meeting and that they’ll be an active participant.
At the beginning of the meeting, especially if you haven’t met in a while, it’s always a good idea to warm people up. What better way to do that than with icebreakers?
Sure, icebreakers can feel corny at times, but that’s part of the fun. Before you know it, you’ll be team building like a pro.
To get you started, here’s a list of 34 quick icebreakers you can use before your next team meeting, or whenever you’d like to do a team building activity. It’s a built-in participation booster.
My favorite icebreaker is the “no smiling” edict. It’s a little bit of reverse psychology that will have your whole team smiling because they’re not supposed to.
Don’t Dominate the Conversation
Once you’ve succeeded in getting everyone into the meeting space, don’t make it all about you. There’s nothing worse than sitting in a meeting for an hour while you listen to one person hog the spotlight.
Instead of being that guy, be the guy who actively seeks out the opinions of others. Ask specific questions and, if necessary, gently prod others to elaborate on their answers. A “yes” or “no” answer isn’t participation, and it definitely isn’t a conversation.
Every conversation is an exchange of ideas. True participation means that each member of your team is actively shaping the conversation. Sometimes, you must get out of the way to make that happen.
Value Everyone’s Input
Piggybacking off the last idea, you should also genuinely appreciate the input of others. When someone else has the floor, stay engaged, ask questions, and let them know that you care.
This doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically rubberstamp their suggestions, but it does mean that you’ll sincerely weigh what others say when you make a decision.
This level of respect and value for others will inspire them to share their opinions with you more frequently.
Recognize A Job Well Done
Too often, bosses hog all the praise for themselves, unwilling to share the stage with others. A team with this type of boss won’t feel motivated to participate, because they know their efforts will go unrecognized.
When a team, or an individual team member, does a good job, acknowledge it. Recognizing their accomplishments is not just part of your job as the team leader, it’s also a positive signal that you actually care about your team members.
Your team will definitely take notice when you praise others more than you do yourself.
Meet at the Right Time
When is the best time to meet with your team? The answer may surprise you.
Let’s discuss the times when you should not meet:
After lunch is a horrible time to meet because people are sluggish after eating.
Immediately before lunch is a horrible time to meet because people are thinking about what they’re going to eat for lunch. They have a vested interest in rushing the meeting along, so that it doesn’t interfere with lunch.
The hour before quitting time is a horrible time to meet because everyone’s preoccupied with going home.
So, eliminating those hours, let’s discuss the ideal time for you to meet and expect the highest level of participation. Drum roll, please.
Tuesday afternoon at 3pm, according to this study. Why the afternoon? At 3pm, your team is fed and ready to socialize. Why Tuesday? This represents the day of the week when the majority of your team are most likely to be available.
An increase in team participation doesn’t happen overnight, but if you follow the above strategies, you will see improvement soon.
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