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How to make your meetings Inclusive

There is a trend seen in recent times where in all companies are talking about being inclusive, diverse and how to practice inclusive behavior at work or inclusive culture at work. . However during covid and post covid when more and more companies are going into either work from home or a hybrid model of working, practicing inclusivity on ground always is a challenge. One of the area where we can practice being inclusive is in our meetings.

Some Statistics

A 2021 report suggest that 11 million meetings are held each day, which means that 55 million meetings are held per week, and 220 million meetings are held per year. Do you know that an average workers spends about 30% of his time in meetings, mid level managers reportedly spend around 35% of their time in meetings and when it comes to Senior management time spent in meetings is close 50% of a working day, sometimes even more. So that’s is why I think meetings are always a great place to start practicing inclusiveness because that’s where we get a chance to collaborate with our peers and managers. By this article I intend to open your eyes and make you realize that although we think we are inclusive, we actually do not practice It in our meetings which results in people feeling left out and ignored and thus demotivated.


Recommended to watch this video which explains this article


Workplace Bias

Now when companies talk about being diverse and being inclusive the primary visible action we see on ground is trying to promote women to leadership positions thereby limiting inclusivity only to gender biases. There are many many other biases at workplace, like biases towards a race or region or religion. Sometimes we see in many companies that at the top level leadership positions only people from certain region or country are entertained, so even if you bring in women in key position you are still not inclusive. Similarly in our meetings if we intend to make everyone feel respected and invested then we need to be more inclusive specially if the meeting is a collaborative type or team meeting, If you are in that kind of a meeting specially if you are host of the meeting it is incumbent on you to make sure that every participant in the meeting irrespective of their gender, region, race or religion gets opportunity to speak and contribute in the discussion.

How to conduct effective meetings

Also if you are the host, you will have to steer the meeting through and bring the discussion back on track if it is deviating from agenda however you also need to try to speak at the start of the meeting setting the tone and then practice speaking at the end unless you have to absolutely intervene in the middle. Now there is one more thing that we have to incorporate in our inclusivity mindset and that is being also inclusive about personality types. Studies show that about 30 to 40% of the people in the world are introverts, which mean every 1 in 3 people are introverts. From Mahatma Gandhi to Albert Einstein to Abraham Lincoln to Sir Isaac Newton, from Bill Gates to Warren Buffet to Richard Branson to Mark Zuckerberg to Elon Musk, the world has seen the power of introverts time and again but yet unfortunately our society has been always biased about extroverts.

One of the studies conducted by Wharton School professor & a brilliant organization psychologist Adam Grant suggested that organization favors and readily promotes extroverted personalities when there is no evidence to prove that introverts make poor leaders, rather his studies suggested that extroverted leaders accounts for less profitability for companies where employees are active, innovative and eager to voice their opinions whereas introverted leaders does wonderfully with those types of employees. So in every company you will have a mix of extroverts and introverts and similarly in your meetings chances are you will have a both personality types.

Now let us step back a bit, remember any meetings that you have been part of where in you had 5 or more participants. Haven’t we all seen that most of our meetings are dominated by those 1 or 2 or 3 extroverted personalities who consumes 70-80% of the meeting time while the rest remains passive. There is no evidence to suggest that people who talks a lot in meetings actually adds a lot of value consistently but what remains a fact that the rest of the voices go unheard as the meeting time gets over. As a host you fail to unlock the collective wisdom you hoped to tap in since 70 % of your participants not get a enough time to speak. Not all those participants who remain quiet are introverts, some are and some maybe too disciplined to wait for their turn to speak up while the extroverts speak. Unfortunately as the meeting time ends most often the host closes the meeting and try to arrange another meeting which results in productivity loss. So it is absolutely critical that the host of the meeting intervenes when extroverts keeps speaking, just to respectfully ask them to finish their inputs so you can ask others opinion as well. If you see people silent, calling out names also is suggested to engage introverts in the discussion. Introverts are deep thinkers, if you are unable to tap in to their insights you might not only be missing out on inclusivity but also on creative thinking which augurs well for any business.

Hope you have liked the article, if yes, kindly share it in your networks. If I have been able to offer you a valuable perspective please let me know in the comments section. Make all your meetings truly inclusive and productive. Also check out my article " How to conduct effective Virtual Meets ?" -Click Here to Read.

-Biswadeep Banerjee


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