Running meetings is hard. Running meetings that give all team members a sense of belonging is even harder. Here's how to be inclusive.
USE THIS PLAY TO...
Create an environment that encourages diversity of opinion and participation from all attendees.
If you're struggling with Health Monitor, running this play might help.or on your
4 - 7
30 - 60 min
Running the play
For this play, don't focus too much on the step-by-step. Think of it as a set of principles and tools you can use to ensure balanced participation at your next meeting.
Whiteboard or butcher's paper
Prep (30 mins)
Your job prior to the meeting is to give underrepresented voices the opportunity to express opinions early on, keep the group lean and less intimidating, and provide time and headspace for all voices to be heard.
1. Write a detailed meeting agenda and send it to all participants at least 24hrs in advance.
List agenda items as questions, not generic topics, and encourage participants to come prepared. This gives introverts a chance to process information outside of the pressure of a loud social setting. Enlist allies (e.g., men, extroverts, etc.) to lead by example and hold them accountable for making space for their female, remote, and introverted counterparts to contribute.
2. Be selective with meeting invitees.
The more people present, the harder for everyone to contribute. The agenda should help invitees ascertain whether they need to be at this meeting. Ensure invitees understand that if they aren't directly involved or don't feel they have something to contribute, they should decline the invite (and if necessary, direct you to anyone else who should be there).
3. Budget enough time to cover everything on the agenda.
Time pressure makes meetings more efficient, but too much time pressure eclipses the opinions of less vocal participants. Ensure there's enough time for everyone to voice their opinions, build on others' opinions, and reach a conclusion together.
Set the stage (5 min)
Use equal seating to suggest equal value
Ensure everyone's sitting around the table comfortably. If some people are gathered at one end, spread them out evenly so everyone can be seen and heard. If you're feeling bold, try taking this principal to the extreme. Instead of piping in remote pariticipants as giant heads on TV screens, make the meeting fully remote, where even the colocated attendees dial in from their desks.
Make everyone feel welcome
Briefly introduce everyone, and why each person has been included in this meeting. This helps diffuse initial tensions and helps everyone feel valued and included.
Lay some ground rules
Set a "no talking over each other" rule, and encourage bystanders to speak up and call out interruptions. If there are remote attendees, remind the room to include them and point out any hand-raise feature or message board that everyone should be mindful of.
Explain the meeting structure. For example, you might choose a round-robin style discussion to ensure that every person in the room gets a turn to express themself before you move onto the next topic. Or you might pass around a speaking totem, or squawk a rubber chicken when one person starts monopolising the floor.
Review meeting roles and agenda, clarify any confusion
Explain who's in charge of each agenda item, who's facilitating, and what the meeting goals are.
Wrap it up (5 min)
Review key points and decisions to make sure everyone is on the same page, then clarify (or reiterate) the next steps and DRIs.
Finally, take a moment to thank everyone for contributing and highlight the value this meeting created – e.g., "The decisions we made here today will set us up to move a lot faster throughout the rest of the project."
Be sure to run a full Health Monitor session or checkpoint with your team to see if you're improving.
Circulate a follow-up note that captures the key takeaways, action items, and DRIs. This way everyone is in the loop and on the same page (consider that remote participants may not have been able to hear everything perfectly).
Proactively solicit ideas that might’ve come to mind after the meeting. To produce their best work, introverts need time alone to process new information. For example, send out a message along the lines of: “Anyone have a new insight about this situation since we met? If so, I’d love to hear it.”
Keep tabs on action items. Assign someone to check in at appropriate intervals after the meeting to ensure the commitments are being kept, or re-evaluated if something unexpected came up.
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