Some meetings are for communicating an already-made decision. Hey guys, we’re changing the way we train our leaders. Let me explain why… Other meetings—the ones that come first—are for generating and considering your options. Here’s the problem. Now, what should we do about it?
In those meetings, debate between the folks at the table can really serve you well. But “debate” can be a dirty word—especially for those of us not so comfortable with conflict.
Here are five tips for navigating the ins and outs of debate in a meeting:
Create a structure where everyone is heard. There are so many different personality types among leaders. Some like to talk, others like to listen and many aren’t heard at all. Take note of how your meetings usually go. Slow down the talkers and ask the quiet ones their thoughts. Creating an environment where everyone gets a say will prevent domination and create fresh ideas.
Don’t interrupt…unless it gets personal. If two people are in a healthy debate, let if flow, sit back and listen. Don’t interrupt unless it gets emotional or personal. Sometimes the most tension filled debates foster the best ideas, encouraging the whole team to feed off of each other to come up with something big.
Get really comfortable with conflict. So many people are uncomfortable with a little heat in a meeting. You will never be able to resolve all of the tension so getting really comfortable with it creates an example for those still struggling. There is such a thing as making peace and not learning anything from it so sit with the tension for big results.
Give people a heads up when a sensitive topic will arise. Going back to the personal factor, if you know that a sensitive topic is on the agenda or might come up during the meeting, give your group a heads up. If they expect it, they won’t be caught off guard or defensive.
Ask questions. Keep the conversation going by asking questions to keep the conversation from moving too quickly. Creating space allows room for new input from the really quiet ones. This also keeps the talkers in line. Lastly, questions affirm people and create confidence, which is good for the whole team.
Don’t avoid debate, encourage it! Your team will appreciate a healthy dose of debate and meetings will be productive and meaningful.