Top tips for ensuring inclusive meetings
by Deepa Thomas-Sutcliffe
Maybe, you are working in a global team or your organisation is multi-cultural with many different ethnicities. As a manager tasked with an important project, how do you go about running a truly inclusive meeting? Diversity has many benefits – better projects, better decision making, more innovation and more representative of the customer base.
Where to start
It starts with the planning – so don’t just invite the usual suspects – people like you, which would only end up with ‘groupthink’.
Instead, invite a cross-functional selection of staff who can help brainstorm and bring multiple points of view in your first meeting. This is the forming stage of the project so a marketing project may benefit from inputs from sales, operations, finance and HR colleagues from multiple markets.
Similarly, there may be a technical project which would benefit from views from colleagues in human resources, communications, administration, customer service for example. This cross functional planning is also great for teamwork and instilling ownership.
The meeting itself
If the meeting is a virtual one, take into account individual styles and encourage different ways to contribute. Some colleagues may prefer to speak up, some to write on a virtual whiteboard and some on chat. Some colleagues may prefer to present their inputs after the call in an email.
Think about how to make it a safe and comfortable place for colleagues who are less likely to speak up. Maybe they are introverted, relatively junior or new to the company. If you have non-native English speakers joining, encourage everyone to speak slowly and clearly, share pre-reading in advance, offer an opportunity for a post meeting catch up with you or a member of your team.
Do not let a few confident people dominate a meeting, invite a broader range of inputs. Make it a safe place for everyone to share their views. As a leader, do not play favourites. Listen patiently to all views. Never shoot down or belittle any contributions. Role model the behaviours you expect your team to demonstrate.
Do end the planning meeting with some next steps so people can be encouraged that their contribution is valuable.
Did you find these ideas useful?
Would you try them for your next meeting?
Please let me know what you think and how your next set of meetings work out for you.
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Image via Galt Museum and Archives