Are you tired of asking your team in a meeting for their input and all you get is crickets?  Or you only keep getting that one person speaking up?

If you feel like your team is filibustering meetings through silence, there’s a good chance your team simply doesn’t feel comfortable speaking up in front of groups.*  Here’s a few ways to switch it up to get more responses and fewer crickets:

  1. Let the team know ahead of time the highlights of the topic you’ll be sharing with them. Also give them a heads up that you’ll be looking to hear from each team member regarding their thoughts or ideas.  Then at the meeting after you share the opportunity at hand, do a “round robin” and go around the room, giving each person the floor to share their contribution.  Capture their ideas up on a flip chart/white board.
  2. Leverage the roman thumb.
  3. Have teams discuss in small groups of 3-4 people the question at hand and let them know each group will share the highlights of their discussion. Often people will speak up in a smaller group as compared to a larger one and then will comfortably share “on behalf” of that smaller group.  Depending on the topic, you may even give these small groups a flip chart piece of paper to write their ideas on.
  4. Ask someone on the team – who is not the shyest, nor the loudest – “Cheryl, as someone who cares about X (or has X perspective), I’m curious to hear your thoughts…” And then be really present to listening to her and what she has to share and then praise her contribution – saying something as simple as, “Cheryl, you make a really good point. (Recreate her response so that she knows you really listened.) I really appreciate you sharing your perspective.  Does that resonate for anyone else?  Or anything any of you would add to Cheryl’s point?”
  5. Ask specific questions as they’re easier to answer. Rather than asking for general thoughts, ideas and suggestions – ask:
    • What’s your #1 concern or suggestion around this topic?
    • What are three ways we could leverage/resolve X?
    • What do you see that could improve/expand X?
    • What’s one thing you think would make the difference in X?

* You may also be up against a bigger culture challenge in which your team doesn’t feel safe to speak up in front of you, or in front of one another.  If this is the case, you have bigger fish to fry – and my best recipe for a big fish fry is in Culture Works: How to Create Happiness in the Workplace.