Is Anyone “Leaning In” At Your Meetings?

BY Kathy Crosett
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You’ve seen this behavior before. You’re trying to get people’s attention in your meeting. Instead of listening to the information you’re presenting, staff members are looking at their phones. They’re yawning. Or they appear to be more interested in the type of donuts sitting on the table in front of them.

We all know that meetings take up too much of everyone’s time. But, today’s collaborative work culture requires meetings. Talking collectively about strategy, product design or implementation issues can be the most effective way to build team agreement and decide on the right course of action.

In Stephanie Vozza’s opinion, meeting leaders often fail to notice when people’s attention fades. As soon as you see distracted behavior during your meeting, it’s time to change tactics.

You could go old-​school and ask the person who’s playing with their phone for their opinion on what you just said. A better strategy is  to “watch for people who start taking notes or lean in,” says Vozza. When people start actively giving their opinions or taking notes on what’s being discussed, you have their attention. Keep the discussion centered on that topic. Take notes. Or, have someone stand at the white board and draw out solutions that are being offered.

While you keep the discussion going, pay attention to how other staff members are reacting. Encourage people who aren’t contributing to ask questions. Ask them to offer their own ideas. Ultimately, you want to lead the conversation in the direction of a resolution or to a list of action items. The goal is to convince team members to willingly take responsibility for assignments they’re excited about.

Don’t obsess about your agenda at this point. Show your ability to be flexible and inclusive. When staff members hear that you’re willing to pursue an agenda item to a concrete ending, they’ll be willing to "lean-​in" and contribute to your meetings.