Don't let well-intentioned big mouths hijack your virtual meeting

How to Prevent Well-Intentioned Big Mouths From Hijacking Your Virtual Meeting

The pivot to more virtual meetings didn’t create this problem. Anyone who has ever run more than a meeting or two knows the challenge of managing the person who just can’t seem to shut up.

It’s extra tricky when they’re a high-performer whose heart is in the right place. And extra, extra challenging when no one else is talking.

After all, it’s human nature for your oxygen sucker to think, “Thank God for me, otherwise, no one would say a word.” And they keep on talking for the good of the team.

My best advice for in-person meetings is to take a break. Then have a quick hallway conversation with the well-intentioned over-sharer to (1) thank them for their ideas and contribution (2) share your concern about getting more voices into the room and, (3) invite them to help draw others in by asking more questions and inviting their colleagues to contribute.

5 Ways to Encourage Everyone to Share in Your Remote Team Meeting

So how do you keep your well-intentioned talker from hijacking your virtual meeting? In some ways, it’s actually a bit easier if you use this opportunity to reset expectations and leverage the technology.

1. Take time out to reset expectations as a team.

First set the stage, “We’ve been working from home for a while now and it looks like we’ll be at this for a while. It’s really important that everyone has an opportunity to contribute and offer their ideas in our virtual meetings.”

And then, invite their ideas.  “Before our next meeting, I’d like everyone to email one or two I.D.E.A.s to ensure everyone has a voice in our virtual meetings. Then, I’ll combine the ideas and we can talk through them and come up with a strategy that will work for all of us.”

Note: by giving everyone a chance to submit their ideas in advance, you give the people who are normally not talking a better chance to weigh in on what it would take to draw them in. This pre-gathering input technique can work well on other topics too.

2. Use the power of chat

The private chat works just like a hallway conversation but without having to take a break. Use a similar “thank, explain, invite” approach as I outlined above with your meeting hijacker.

Public chat also works great to prime-the-pump for conversation. One of our favorite ways to do this is to ask everyone to “put your fingers on the keyboard,” and then ask a provocative question and have everyone chat in the answers. Then you can call out the answers of some of the folks who are less likely to unmute and speak.

3. Leverage breakout rooms for more intimate and streamlined conversation.

This is where technology is your friend. When we’re facilitating virtual meetings or live-online training we almost always use the breakout rooms to encourage deeper dialogue. We find the smaller the better. It’s hard to hide in a group of three or four, and we find participants do a better job of encouraging one another’s contributions and making space for everyone to speak. AND the ideas generated are almost always better with more brains actually engaged in the conversation. Vary who gives the readout from the groups each time. You can even randomize it so that it’s not just a volunteer. For example, “and when we come back I’d like the person with the birthday earliest in the year, to give the readout.”

4. Teach the art of facilitation and then take turns.

Empowering all team members with some basic training or tips on remote facilitation will help everyone know what success looks like and be more likely to help keep the meeting more inclusive (with a side-effect of encouraging some self-regulation). By rotating the meeting facilitation through every member of your team you by default encourage more balanced conversations.

5. Talk with your well-intentioned meeting hijacker off-line.

If you try all this and still have a well-intentioned meeting hijacker, it’s time for an off-line voice to voice feedback conversation about the pattern, point out why it matters and invite them to come up with a solution. Our I.N.S.P.I.R.E. technique for having a difficult conversation works great at a time like this.

Your turn.

I’d love to hear your ideas. What are your best techniques for preventing a well-intentioned big mouth from hijacking your virtual meeting?

HT to James daSilva of Smartbrief for the prompt.

how to hold a remarkably effective team huddle

How to Hold a Remarkably Effective Team Huddle

When Karin was in her sales exec role at Verizon, she would often walk into the back door of a store to find her highest performing team huddled just before the store opened, talking about their plans for the day. When she walked in the back door of the lower performing stores at the same time of the day, everyone was off doing their own thing.

We’ve seen this trend play out time and time again…in contact centers, sales teams, engineering teams, PMOs…

Show us a group of team leaders who share the same role, and we guarantee that the ones with the best results have mastered the art of the team huddle.

Of course, the best front-line leaders are doing a lot of things right. A great team huddle is just part of the cocktail. But we’ve never met a high-performing team where the team leader didn’t include a great team huddle as part of their operating plan.

How to Make Your Team Huddle Great

1. Set a clear intention.

When a basketball coach calls a timeout and huddles the team, she knows EXACTLY why. She doesn’t start with “How’s everyone doing?” “Anyone have anything they want to share?”  Ask yourself “What’s the most important message I want my team to take away from this huddle, and how will I know they’ve got it?”

2. Structure your topics.

Another big mistake we see with team huddles is they lack structure. To make your team huddle effective and efficient, pick a few topics and prepare what you need in advance. If you will review results, pick the ones you want to hit and the most important behaviors you want your team to focus on this week. “Sales results are down this month, I really need everyone to hustle” is not nearly as impactful as “Our sales are soft on X product across the board, except for Laura and Drew, who have doubled their sales this month. Can you each share about what you’re doing?”

A few topics that work well in a quick team huddle (pick just a few each time)

  • Reinforce your MIT priorities for the week.
  • Review results and the “So what?” behind them.
  • Provide important updates (that you will also reinforce in other ways).
  • Reinforce key elements from training (have them teach what they learned).
  • Recognize and celebrate contributions.
  • Solicit concerns/invite escalation.
  • Share best practices.
  • Solicit input on ideas.
  • Round robin “What do you need help with and from who?”

3. Prepare some provocative questions

The easiest way to get your team to tune out of a huddle is to do all the talking. Prepare a few provocative questions (it’s great to send them out in advance, so your people have time to think through their answers). You can even text the questions in advance. You might also consider starting your huddle with these meaningful icebreaker questions. 

A few questions to spark conversation

  • What are you hearing from our customers?
  • How do you think we can fix ___?
  • What specific help do you need this week?
  • What’s getting in the way?

4. Check for understanding

Just because you’ve said something doesn’t mean that you’ve communicated. Has your team picked up what you put down? For any key message, be sure to do a check for understanding where the team shares back what they’ve heard.

5. Recap and Reinforce

Just as with any meeting end with the simple magic meeting formula: “Who will do what, by when, and how will we know?”

Done well, a team huddle can serve as a remarkable way to keep your team focused on what matters most.

Your turn

What are your best practices for a remarkable team huddle?

Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your SoulIf you’re looking to improve team communication, you might also try our quick team communication check.

Other great articles on team huddles

How Simple Team Huddles Can Make a Business Better (Forbes)

Why the Team Huddle is Your Most Important Meeting

For more practical tools for leading a high-performing team see: Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul