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3 Leadership Team Development Tips - Listen to the Quiet Employee

In our leadership team development and executive coaching work we get asked by leaders how to increase team productivity.

In the idea economy that we now are in creativity, innovation and intellectual capital are the key drivers but they seem frustrated that they are not getting any real insights or breakthrough ideas from their team.

 Team productivity can be improved by listening to the quiet employee. Learn three tips on how to make this happen.

The most common approach to drive performance is to have team meetings where the plan is to have everyone share their best ideas. The prevailing belief is that the best ideas will rise to the top, be heard and everyone will then have a clear direction on how to move forward.

Instead what we get is mixed results, countless hours spent in meetings and a growing cynicism towards the entire process.

There is a better way.

Listen to the quiet employees.

I have been a long time follower of Susan Cain, the author of Quiet and now the Chief Revolutionary of The Quiet Revolution. She has advocated that introverts are too often overlooked because they get overshadowed (or more appropriately drowned out) by their extravert team members.

According to Susan, “A recent study conducted by the Kellogg School of Management found that in a typical six- to eight-person meeting, three people do 70% of the talking”. While there are definitely scenarios where a minority of the group should carry the discussion quite often there are situations where:

  • Valid but contrary opinions are not shared
  • Difficulty occurs when people are asked “to create on demand”.

To counter this opportunity loss Susan Cain suggests three great ideas:

  1. Studies show that all of us—extroverts as well as introverts—produce more and better ideas alone than we do in a group. Ask everyone to prepare thoughtfully before the meeting.
  2. Go around the room, and ask people for their thoughts in turn. This prevents any one person from dominating.
  3. Stop the meeting periodically to give people time to think, reflect, and write down their thoughts. Then repeat step two, above.

 I believe that gaining productivity from the quietest people on the team is now and will be one of the great productivity challenges for organizations. This is especially true as we move more and more to open offices, matrix organizations, collaboration centers, etc.