Early in my career, my supervisor did me a big favor, although it didn’t feel like it at the time.
Kurt put me on probation for not speaking during meetings. He stated it very simply—Paul, if you don’t speak, you don’t add value.
I had lots of ways to justify my lack of speaking: I was the newest member of the group, I didn’t have much experience, other people seemed to have more to say, I wasn’t sure I had anything of value to add, and, of course, the blockbuster of all: I was shy.
Fortunately, my supervisor wasn’t into explanations or excuses—just results. And suddenly not speaking wasn’t an option for me.
Now, many years later, during training programs on personal effectiveness and coaching with individual managers, I am working to broaden the amount of participation in meetings and to deepen the level of conversation in group settings.
Two key ideas are at the heart of this issue:
First, participants need to embrace this perspective: If you are invited to speak, you are obligated to respond even if it is simply to acknowledge being asked and saying that you don’t have anything to express that hasn’t already been said. Part of being an effective member of any group is to always be self-expressed.
Second, when leading meetings, you need to call on people directly because you simply can not count on people speaking up on their own.