I’ve observed some worrying trends in meetings I’ve been attending lately. It seems people are afraid to speak their minds during a meeting for fear of being seen as disrespectful. Another trend is that voicing disagreement is seen as a sign of treasonable disrespect and leads to a shouting match!
Neither of these trends is conducive to good business conduct.
Robust characters exist in every business. They’re naturally inclined to dominate the discussion, brushing disagreements aside.
Timid people who fail to get their point across can become frustrated. This probably results in them leaving the business sooner or later.
A good chairperson will encourage the timid ones and rein in more robust individuals, to ensure a balanced debate in which all points of view are heard.
If you listen to debates in the House of Commons or House of Lords, MPs and members use arcane-sounding language such as ‘My honourable friend’. But using such language is designed to ensure that disagreements are not taken to be disrespectful.
You’ll also hear phrases such as ‘With respect, I disagree’, but these words are often spoken in a way that contradicts their meaning!
As a business leader, it’s your job to maximise contributions and input from all members of the team – and that includes allowing them to disagree with you.
If you invite constructive criticism of yourself and your actions, you’re setting an example to everyone in the team. There’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism and it’s not disrespectful or insulting to disagree with what other people are saying.
An additional benefit of this approach is that your ideas and suggestions will be examined in much more detail. As the saying goes, ‘If you really want to understand something, teach it’.
Being open and inclusive in this way has a positive impact, both on team culture and the atmosphere in meetings. Encouraging criticism from team members stimulates openness. Creating an open environment means that others (including junior staff and those who are timid) feel able to volunteer their thoughts and ideas too.
Which is easier – trying to do it all on your own or getting others to contribute?