Meetings: Why it’s important to listen to everyone

Business leaders often ask themselves, what’s the best way to host a successful meeting?

Some people adopt the strategy of dominating the conversation, believing that by making themselves heard, this will impose their authority and steer the meeting in the right direction. However, one key quality all successful business leaders possess is the ability to listen to others.

Dominating a meeting can have the opposite effect to the intended one, causing attendees to switch off. The best way to increase your presence is to actively listen and make sure everyone else is heard too.

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A massive 71% of employees have said they’ve attended unproductive meetings, with 30% of workers believing their ideas have been shut down too quickly. Those who feel they have a meaningful contribution to make to a meeting become very disappointed when no one seems to be listening.

Why attendees may not be heard

It can sometimes be difficult to pay attention when leading a meeting, especially a large gathering, for various reasons. If you’re in a position of leadership, but appear to display an undercurrent of lacking patience, or not wishing to listen, your team members may not feel supported when they speak.

Perhaps you have a lot of items to cover on the agenda and are conscious of having only a limited amount of time. Maybe you have a lot of information to divulge yourself and feel you need to rush through it, or perhaps there’s a lot to remember and you’re deep in thought as you try to keep the meeting on schedule.

If you don’t invite others to share, because you think the agenda is already too packed, then it’s time to allocate more time to your meetings. Although you might not have time to address every suggestion made by your colleagues, still ask them to share their thoughts.

Why must you ensure delegates have a voice?

If you appear closed to other people’s ideas, they will start holding back. This could mean you’re missing out on some good suggestions and useful information that could aid your project’s success.

When employees feel managers are listening to their input and considering their opinion in decision making and planning, they will become more motivated. Even if you’re not keen on their ideas, just listening and then discussing them is a vital part of leadership.

Being a good listener in a meeting will build a stronger team and provide opportunities to move forward, based on constructive feedback.

How can the problem be resolved?

In some cases, having a dedicated meeting room can make a difference to the level of involvement. Around 55% of employees say they tend to multitask at meetings, with the main task being checking emails. This is far too easy if the meeting is held in the general office.

Sitting down together in a meeting room, without the distractions of the everyday workplace, can make attendees take more notice of each other, genuinely listening to what others say. It increases focus on the task at hand and prevents people’s attention from being diverted.

When you’re leading a meeting, the key is to slow down and avoid thundering through the agenda. Deepen your breathing and try to relax and focus on others; rather than doing all the talking, take the time to listen and soak up as much information as possible. Even if you feel tired or stressed, don’t let this show. Carry on taking deep breaths and remain calm.

Make a mental note to listen and to understand what colleagues are saying. Avoid the urge to interrupt, as this can be very frustrating. Always make eye contact with whoever wishes to speak and let them know you’re listening. Use non-verbal communication, such as a warm gaze, a nod and a smile to help them open up.

When you speak yourself, always acknowledge the other person’s idea before you begin, or respond to them directly during your comments. Stay clear and direct and make sure you don’t rush straight into your speech without referencing the previous contribution.

Even if your company’s culture has always allowed for constant cross-talking, stand out from the rest by acknowledging the room. Maintain focus and stick to the agenda and the task at hand, but don’t appear closed to ideas and free speaking.

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