In his 2018 annual shareholder letter, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos reemphasized that PowerPoint presentations are outlawed at Amazon’s executive meetings. Instead, Bezos requires his executives to submit six-page briefs that are eerily reminiscent of high school essays. While Bezos’ insistence that long form narrative replace PowerPoint may benefit some employees (in terms of helping them better understand and crystallize meeting concepts,) many cohorts are disadvantaged by the approach. To be precise, 65% of individuals are disadvantaged because they are visual learners (according to the Social Science Research Network.) Hence, the Bezos approach actively excludes them.
Here are three easy ways to make sure there is something to suit everybody’s communication style.
1. A picture is worth a thousand words
Incorporate multiple forms of media. Meeting slides and presentations that incorporate embedded images, videos, and slideshows can prove enormously effective in creating a more inclusive environment for all types of learners. Research by MIT neuroscientists shows that the brain is able to process an image in as little as 13 milliseconds.
There’s an art and science associated with effective meetings. As a leader, one of your primary objectives should be to foster an inclusive meeting environment that welcomes all attendees to contribute.
2. Distribute meeting agendas in advance
Far too frequently, meetings are dominated (and derailed) by one or two individuals. Extroverted individuals are especially prone to dominate meeting conversations. Extroverts tend to process information by discussing it aloud. They’re quick to voice their thoughts, concerns, and opinions, even when only half-baked. Introverts, on the other hand, require comparatively more time to process and digest information. They’re often ill at ease when asked to immediately contribute to conversations without adequate preparation time.
As a meeting facilitator, strive to ensure that introverts and extroverts are on a level playing field. By distributing meeting agendas in advance, you’ll afford introverts time to think through their ideas and decide how they wish to convey them verbally. Ultimately, you’ll create a more inclusive meeting environment that empowers all personality types to engage and contribute.
3. Minimize and manage interruptions
It’s a harsh reality. Women are much more apt to get interrupted in meetings as compared to their male counterparts. A 2012 study spearheaded by researchers at Brigham Young University and Princeton University found that men dominate about 75% of the conversation during professional meetings (women account for the remaining 25%.) The implications loom large. The study also determined that when women are left out of conversations, it is significantly more difficult for them to affect decisions.
As a leader, it's imperative that you be on the lookout for signs of unwarranted interruptions. If you encounter instances of “manterrupting” (unnecessary interruption of a woman by a man) or “mansplaining” (interruption of a woman by a man in an effort to explain something, usually in a condescending manner,) stop them in their tracks. By doing so, you’ll create a more inclusive environment that encourages both genders to engage in healthy conversations. Not sure how to go about this (or not sure what is being referenced in this article?) Don’t worry, engage an executive coach to outfit you with the tools and techniques necessary to diagnose and bolster your inclusive leadership skills and abilities.
As a leader, you likely find your schedule consumed by a constant flurry of meetings. Yet, despite representing one of our most common workplace rituals, meetings tend to be energy-sapping affairs. Dysfunctional meetings can wreak havoc on our productivity levels. A study by researchers at the University of North Carolina found that 71% of senior managers claim that meetings are unproductive and inefficient, while 62% state that meetings thwart opportunities to bring teams closer together.
You are responsible for combating those statistics, and for creating a democratic and inclusive environment. By adhering to the aforementioned tactics, you’ll be more effective at neutralizing dominant personalities and fostering a more inclusive meeting environment. Over time, the fruits of your labor will pay dividends.
So don’t be like Bezos! Why? Because inclusive teams make better business decisions 87% of the time (Cloverpop research.) Meetings are but one of many business rituals that profit from an inclusive environment.
Why not make your 2019 meetings more inclusive and more effective?
Nadine Greiner, Ph.D. provides Executive Coaching and Human Resources solutions. Her mission is to make the executive experience exceptionally enjoyable and effective. She believes that the world needs great leaders, and has dedicated her career to helping them.
As an organization psychologist and former corporate CEO, Dr. Nadine understands the pressures and demands executives face. She offers her clients the high expertise that only comes with three decades of consulting success, and a dual Ph.D. in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology. Dr. Nadine is an in-demand speaker, teaches in doctoral programs, and coaches other consultants. She is the author of two books: ‘The Art of Executive Coaching: Secrets to Unlock Leadership Performance’, and of ‘Stress-less Leadership: How to Lead in Business and in Life’. amazon.com/author/nadinegreiner