HSM Spotlight: Diversity of Thought in Meetings

Alex Lewis, Junior Consultant at HSM Advisory, has been thinking about encouraging inclusivity in meetings and how to get value from all participants. You can read her thoughts below.

“In a typical six-person meeting, more than 60 per cent of the talking is done by just two people.” As someone who tends to be very quiet in meetings, I found this statistic fascinating.

Sometimes I need to take a moment, process the information, and organise my thoughts, which (especially in hybrid meetings) can mean the moment has already passed by the time I have formulated my input.

It always creates a bit of anxiety (should I be talking more?), and it’s interesting to see that this fear might be well-founded, as we see that “the link between speaking time and authority is so well established that some researchers call it the ‘babble hypothesis’ of leadership”.

However, when meetings are dominated by the voices of a few, diversity of thought and potentially the value of the meeting is stifled. We only need to think of introverts, junior people and others who generally may find it harder to speak up in meetings.

But how can organisations create inclusive meetings where everyone’s voices are heard?

When setting meetings, I find that intentionality is invaluable and sending across an agenda and main objectives ahead of time allows me to collect my thoughts and attend the meeting well prepared.

At HSM Advisory, we have made a habit of encouraging the most junior person to speak first in a meeting in order to avoid groupthink, as well as encouraging those who may not feel confident in speaking to contribute to the conversation.

Or perhaps, as this FT article suggests, organisations can trial idea-generation whereby people write down initial ideas which are then discussed, which is said to galvanise introverts and neutralise blowhards.

How do you approach creating an inclusive environment in meetings? I would be interested to know what works best for you. You can email me here or connect with me on LinkedIn here.