There comes a point in many meetings when the leader says, “So what do you think?” On a good day, a few people chime in with an idea. On a bad day, the question is met with silence. On a worse day, people don’t speak and they avert their eyes. Talk about painful.
When it happens to me, outwardly I keep my cool–or at least that’s what I attempt to do. Inside, I’m screaming, “What the hell is the problem here? Say something!”
I used to wonder how it could be that there weren’t any ideas in the room. Then I realized that was an assumption. Just because nobody shared ideas didn’t mean there were none. It could be that people have plenty to say, they just aren’t willing to do so.
Do you know why people hold back in your meetings? I can offer several possibilities:
- People have learned that opening their mouths means opening themselves to ridicule. Ideas are personal. Egos are involved. If the group shoots down the idea, it feels like they are shooting down the person who offered it.
- We have a tendency to ask the person who offers the idea to run with it. This does make some sense in that the idea owner probably has energy for seeing it implemented. The problem is that most people are about as busy as they want to be. Who wants more work?
- The person fears that the group may agree to the suggestion, but if later something goes wrong, they’ll come back to blame the idea originator. This concern prevents ideas from surfacing unless they are sure shots. And how often does that happen?
- Finally, there may be some reluctance to give up control of the idea. When the idea is in my head, it’s totally mine. Say it out loud, and now the group owns it and may choose to do all kinds of things with it that don’t fit what I had in mind.
If you want more ideas in your meetings, you’ll need to find ways to deal with the four problems listed above. Take care of these, and the ideas will begin to flow.
Image credit: tanakawho