7 Suggestions to Get the Introverts Sharing in Your Meetings, So You Don’t Miss Their Input

power meeting from above

Yesterday I shared 7 Reasons the Introvert Is Not Talking in Your Meetings. I committed then to share some suggestions. Read that post first, or this one will be harder to follow.

The fact is we miss out on a lot of valuable input if we don’t hear from the introverts on the team, but hearing from them is more challenging. They are introverted. That basically means they typically internalize their thoughts more than the externalize them. But, in order for them to be helpful you have to hear them. They have to externalize their thoughts.

These aren’t fool proof. Not all introverts are alike, just as not all extroverts are alike. All of us are unique.

But, these might help. If you’re not hearing from some of the introverts on your team, give some of these a try.

Keep in mind, these are coming from an introvert and a leader.

First, from the previous post…

Here were 7 reasons they may not be talking:

  • Everyone else keeps talking
  • You are rushing the answers
  • There are too many people, especially extroverts in the room
  • You have them in an uncomfortable seat
  • They’ve got nothing to say
  • The conversation isn’t going anywhere
  • You put them on the spot without warning

Now,

Here are 7 suggestions to get them talking:

First – Give them proper warning before the meeting to get them thinking ahead of time and let them know you’ll be expecting their input. With time to collect their thoughts in advance they’ll be more likely to share.

Second – Give them time after the meeting to reflect and specifically ask for their thoughts. In brainstorming, give them the questions before the meeting that you’ll be discussing. In some circumstances, I’ve even given introverts the freedom to email or text me or someone else during the meeting. (I’ve led a couple meetings where we put a live Google Docs on the screen to add our thoughts. Introverts could type in their response and Google Docs would update. They seemed to share more.)

Third – Divide into smaller groups. Especially during brainstorming meetings or strategy sessions, divide out and then come back together to share. Depending on the size of the group, you could have an introvert serve on their own “team of one” during the breakout time with the assignment to come back and share.

Fourth – Let them choose their seat. Never force introverts to move to the front of the room. You can offer them the seat, but if they want to stand in the back of a crowded room, let them.

Fifth – Don’t make people talk. Don’t call out an introvert or put them on the spot for an immediate answer. Provide opportunities, but don’t force. As mentioned previously, to see if they have thoughts to share, write a question on the board and give some time to process — maybe even let the answers be written.

Sixth – Start meetings on time and with an agenda. If small talk is part of the culture — that’s okay — but give them something to read or focus on until the main meeting starts. And, don’t be upset if they are still working on their phone until the actual meeting starts.

Seventh – Give them a preassigned part in the meeting. Most introverts are not afraid of leading, even speaking in large groups (I do it every week), they just want time to prepare. Then watch them shine.

As I said in the previous post, leaders this means you must know the people you are trying to lead. If you aren’t sure — ask, do assessments, observe, get to know them.

Also, to my fellow introverts, I hear from you. Some of you cringe at the word “brainstorming”. You want a pass from anything that makes you particularly uncomfortable. I’m sorry, I can’t give that as a leader. We all have to do things uncomfortable at times — that includes my extroverted friends. Sometimes they’ll be forced to sit in silent activities on the teams I lead. Brainstorming can be an important part of team-building and idea creation. And, the team needs you. We just need to help leaders — especially extremely extroverted leaders — learn how to get us more involved.

What suggestions do you have?

7 Reasons Why The Introvert Is Not Talking And The Team Misses Out

Men Holding White Board in Business Presentation

Ever wonder why the introvert on your team isn’t talking?

Introverts can be highly creative. They have original ideas. They think things through thoroughly. You need to hear from them.

Chances are, if they aren’t sharing, you’re missing out on some good participation.

Here are 7 reasons they may not be talking:

Everyone else kept talking – Most introverts aren’t going to talk over other people. They’ll wait their turn. If it doesn’t come. They won’t share.

You are rushing the answers – You don’t give them time to process. Introverts take time to find the right words to say. If you press for quick responses, they’ll likely share less. That’s true in brainstorming too, where you’re looking for many responses.

There are too many people, especially extroverts in the room – If there are plenty of “talkers” an introvert will let others do the talking. Again, they won’t interrupt. If introverts are easily outnumbered they are usually silenced.

You have them in an uncomfortable seat – Maybe they were late to the meeting and all that was left was an awkward front row seat. Not happening. They won’t likely share if they feel they are being made the center of attention.

They’ve got nothing to say – Perhaps it isn’t their subject. Introverts aren’t as likely to talk about subjects they know less about as an extrovert will. Their words are typically based on thoughts they’ve processed longer, so if it’s a new subject, they may still be processing internally.

The conversation isn’t going anywhere – Introverts aren’t usually fans of small talk. If too much time at the beginning of the meeting was about nothing they consider of great importance, then you may have lost their interest .

You put them on the spot without warning – Introverts are often NOT opposed to making a presentation. (The “not” is capitalized on purpose.) The myth is that introverts are always silent. Not true. Or that they have nothing to say. Not true again. They simply want to be prepared before they share.

Of course, this means you need to understand the team you’re trying to lead. Who are the introverts — the true introverts — on your team? They may have thoughts you need to hear. Your challenge is to create an environment conducive for hearing from them.

Edited note: I always receive push back from introverts about brainstorming. (Remember, I am one. Fairly extreme one.) I don’t think the problem is brainstorming, but rather how we do it. The process is too important not to do it and the collective thoughts are too important to miss anyone. We don’t get an “out” of everything uncomfortable because we are introverts. No one does. We just have to adapt and leaders have to get better at leading everyone, which is the point of these posts.

Go to my 7 suggestions post for ideas for each of these to get the introverts sharing.

What other reasons do you know that keep introverts from sharing in a meeting?

7 Examples of Unwritten Rules that Shape an Organization

Know The Rules

In an organization the unwritten rules are just as, if not more, important than the written rules. I wrote about that idea HERE.

If you are considering making changes, implementing something new, adding staff, or any of dozen other decisions in your organization, you need to also consider the these “rules” of the organization.

Here are a 7 examples:

The culture – How does it responds to change? How does it addresses problems? How does it plans for the future? How trusted is leadership? These are all unique to this organization.

The leader’s accessibility and temperament – Every senior leader is different. If you change the leader you change some of the unwritten rules. Is he or she considered approachable? Does he or she participate with the team normally? Would he or she know if there was a perceived problem in the organization? Do team members trust leadership? These answers shape responses to change.

The relationships of team members to each other – Is there a friendship or just a working relationship among team members? Is conflict acceptable and healthy? Do team members feel freedom to speak freely when in disagreement? Do people respect one another? Is there a silo culture or a common vision everyone is working to achieve? The healthiest organizations have people working together who genuinely like one another. If that isn’t there, change will be more difficult.

The sense of work satisfaction – Are there long-term team members? Are team members generally happy with the organization? Is there any unrest among team members? Are there unspoken concerns within the organization? Many times this has been formed over the years, sometimes even before a leader has been in the position, but it is valuable information for any leader.

The reaction to change Is the “way it’s always been done” changeable? Has change usually been accepted or resisted? Who has to initiate change? What is the anticipated speed of change? Who needs to know about it? The success of change will be directly related to the answers to these questions and the way a leader responds to them.

The way information flows – How does communication really happen? What are the circles of influence? Who drives discussion? Who has influence with peers? What are the expectations regarding the “need to know”? Communication is key in any organization so, as leaders, we must understand the way it occurs.

The real power structure – Who really makes the decisions? Is it a board? A few key people? A consensus of the largest percentage of people? Power structures are rarely as purely formed as what is written on a piece of paper. Knowing this is critical to navigating change.

As a leader, it’s important that you not only concentrate your attention on what is easily measured, written in a policy manual, or even spoken as a value. Other considerations may be more important, even though they may have never been expressed formally. When change occurs or is to be implemented in an organization, paying attention to these unwritten rules is necessary for success.

By the way leaders, most likely you helped write (or are helping to write) these unwritten rules.

What are some of the unwritten rules of your organization?

Where Does a Struggling Leader Go for Help? Here are 7 Suggestions

Frustrated office manager overloaded with work.

This is written to the struggling leader. I frequently hear from you. Email appears to be a safe place to reach out to someone — and for that I’m thankful. Some of my pastor friends are lonely or about to collapse. There are some business leaders crashing.

Recently, someone emailed me for help and I told them email alone was not enough. As much as I appreciated the opportunity, this pastor needed more. Which prompted a great question.

Where does the Christian leader go for help?

It’s hard, isn’t it? It’s difficult to be transparent. You have an image — a reputation — you want to protect. You’re not sure they will follow you as closely if they know you struggle too. And, the reality is some will even more — and some do have an unrealistic expectation for you to be above the normal struggles of life. It’s tough to know who to trust or who will use the information against you. So, that puts it back in your court.

You know you need help. Where do you go?

Here are 7 suggestions:

God – He’s the obvious answer, isn’t He? But, seriously, have you taken the issue you’re dealing with to God specifically? Maybe you’ve prayed general prayers, but have you been specific with God your needs? It’s not that He doesn’t know — but He longs to hear from His children. Sometimes we don’t have because we don’t ask. Spend some extended, non-sermon writing time in God’s Word and talking to your Father.

Counselor – There is nothing wrong with a pastor or any leader (or anyone) seeing a professional counselor. In fact, there is everything right about it if you have need. They are professional. Confidentiality is always the objection I hear, but in my experience these are professionals. It is the extremely rare exception — just as it is hopefully for pastors — that confidence would ever be broken. The value of the help outweighs the few stories you may have heard or fears you may have.

Coach – There are paid professionals who aren’t counselors necessarily, but their job is to help you think through life — where you’re at and where you’re going. As for the counselor and the coach — there are often associations, denominations and non-profits who will help pay for these services. A dream of mine is to develop a collective resource site with this information. But, it’s worth the time to look for good help. And, if you know some, share them in the comments for others.

Couch - This word seemed to fit, since the last two started with a “C”. You may need rest. Forced if necessary. Sometimes that makes all the difference. It might be an afternoon nap or an extended Sabbatical, but it can be a life saving discipline to stop everything and physically and mentally recover.

For best results, the next three usually require preparation before the crash is eminent, but they are wonderful resources for every leader. I often find, however, that leaders have these in their lives — God often does the preparing for us — but we’ve failed to reach out for help.

Mentor – I have consistently surrounded myself with people wiser than me about an issue. It could be in ministry, finances or family, but I want a human resource of wisdom when I need one. And, when I get to know those who seem like they’ve figured something out with which I’m struggling, I find they once struggled just like me — which is why they make a good mentor.

Friends – “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.” The original “phone a friend” option was God-ordained. Use it.

Family – I offer this one with caution. There are times when family is the best place to turn and times when they aren’t. I’m not suggesting hiding from family but sometimes families are too emotionally attached to be objective. But, with that caution, I’d rather see a leader run to family than crash and burn alone.

Struggling leader, be vulnerable. You can recover better and faster if you raise the flag of distress than it you keep the mask covering the suffering.

You Can’t Structure A Win, But You Can Structure The Road To Get There

Business Charts

You can’t structure a win.

You can’t guarantee success. In fact, you can do everything right and still not produce the results you’re looking for. People get sick. People disappoint you. Circumstances happen beyond your control.

Stuff happens.

You can’t structure a win, but you can structure the scenarios that often allow results to happen. And, great leaders keep refining that process.

You can:

  • Set measurable goals and objectives.
  • Feed the stimulants that often produce the results you’re seeking. Or try new stimulants.
  • Improve creativity.
  • Develop new leaders.
  • Delegate.
  • Make plans.
  • Motivate people. Cast visions.

Then trust that God will do what God does.  

After all, God is in charge of results.

We can’t structure a win, but we can structure the scenarios that often allow results to happen.

And, I didn’t make it up. 

With no vision the people perish. Proverbs 29:18

Who builds without counting the costs? Luke 14:28-28.

Do all you know to do. Definitely do that.

Because…

He who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it — sins. James 4:17

But, after you’ve done all you can — you can trust God with the results.

Leader, when you’ve done all you know to do, you can sleep well at night. Regardless of the results.

4 Types of Anonymous Critics

what is the answer

I’ve received my share of criticism. It comes with leadership. If you aren’t receiving criticism — you probably aren’t leading. I’ve also received my share of anonymous criticism. I’ve been a church planter and church revitalizer — so perhaps more than my share. :)

I’m one of those rare leaders who doesn’t automatically dismiss criticism because someone doesn’t sign their name. Mostly because I try to consider if something in my personality or approach caused this person to feel the need to remain anonymous. (My StrengthFinder indicates I can tend to be controlling — something I have to continually guard against.) I have had people go to the trouble of making up a name and an email address. I can tell because the details in the criticism are often accurate, but none of the information matches anyone in our database.

I figure in times like this that the criticism is from someone who feels the need to remain anonymous. I would always prefer to talk with the person, but I try to reconcile his or her reasoning for withholding a name.

The reality is I believe there are at least four different motivations for a person offering anonymous criticism. While I still don’t believe this is the right option to take in giving criticism, and it doesn’t fit well with my straight-foward personality, I realize everyone is not like me.

Here are 4 types of anonymous critics:

Fearful – This is the anonymous critic who is simply afraid of conflict. It’s not that the person doesn’t like you or the organization or that he or she doesn’t have good suggestions for improvement. This anonymous critic simply can’t bring him or herself to reveal his or her identity, because of individual fear. (Controlling leadership often develops this type of anonymous criticism.)

Pleaser – This is the anonymous critic who wants everyone to get along, and so doesn’t want to create any problems or tension. He or she thinks you need to know something, but would rather not be the one to tell you. They aren’t afraid of conflict as much as afraid you won’t like them if they tell you what’s on their heart or mind.

Trouble-maker – This is the anonymous critic who is trying to stir up trouble and knows that throwing the anonymous criticism in the loop causes confusion and concern. These people are disrupters and critics I’d rather avoid reading if I could always discern this was the critic’s intent. (They are my least favorite kind.)

Passive – This is the anonymous critic who has low interest in the organization and would prefer not to be bothered any further. It could be the one who feels intimidated by you or the position. (Controlling leadership also develops this type of anonymous criticism.) This anonymous critic doesn’t want to be in the middle of the conflict, but thinks you need to know what he or she has to share.

Obviously, you can’t always know which of these you’re dealing with, but it does help me think through my approach to anonymous criticism.

You can read a previous post HERE on how I process anonymous criticism.

If you had to choose one, which of these would you prefer to listen to?

How a Man After God’s Own Heart Leads: Lessons from King David

Bible Book of psalms title page

Leadership these days is tougher than ever it seems. Times are hard and organizations are stressed. Employees are stretched and budgets are tight. Loyalty is rare and everything is changing a rocket pace.

One job of a successful leader is to encourage those who look to him or her for leadership. Leaders are to “rally the troops” so to speak and keep people moving forward. This becomes especially more difficult during stressful times in an organization, but even more important.

I’ve studied and written a great deal about King David — before and after he was appointed king — because he appears to have been a great leader in his time. Perfect? Well, of course not, but he was a “man after God’s own heart.” God used him to lead His people during some difficult times.

One great example of motivating a team during crisis comes from the writings of David in Psalm 3. At the time of this writing, it is believed that David was hiding out from his own son Absalom. His encouragement kept his troops focused and gave them strength they needed in desperate times.

If you don’t know the story, you can read the full context in 2 Samuel Chapters 11-19. In short, David’s sin (I told you he wasn’t perfect) led to a family turmoil, which led to David’s son attempting to take over the kingdom. David fled for his safety, but an army went with him. In spite of being outnumbered, David kept his troops encouraged and they eventually returned to power.

If you are a leader struggling to gain victory or you feel overwhelmed in your current situation, this story may motivate you. (It does me.)

Let’s walk through Psalm 3 in The Message Version:

Verse 1-2 God! Look! Enemies past counting! Enemies sprouting like mushrooms, Mobs of them all around me, roaring their mockery: “Hah! No help for him from God!”

There will be times in any leadership position where the odds seem to be against you. In those times a leader may feel there are more negative voices than positive voices — both outside and even inside the organization. (Remember, what you feel is not always reality, but it’s you’re perceived reality at the time.)

Verse 3-4 But you, God, shield me on all sides; You ground my feet, you lift my head high; With all my might I shout up to God, His answers thunder from the holy mountain.

The leader, regardless of the naysayers, must remember the vision and the resolve of his role within the organization. In this case, of course, David wasn’t unrealistic. He knew the situation was gruesome, but he also knew he had a testimony with God and that God had placed a special calling on his life. Great leaders know their calling.

Verse 5-6 I stretch myself out. I sleep. Then I’m up again—rested, tall and steady, Fearless before the enemy mobs Coming at me from all sides.

David took action. An important action under the circumstance. He went to sleep, placing everything in God’s hands. It was as if he said, “God, when I get up — it’s all you again!” Leaders must know their limits, their strengths and be willing to rely on help from others. Christian leaders ultimately rely on the power of God.

Verse 7 Up, God! My God, help me! Slap their faces, First this cheek, then the other, Your fist hard in their teeth!

David woke up with a passion that exploded inside of him. He had a new resolve. He had experienced a revival in his heart. He was ready to move forward with God’s plan. I can almost imagine those around David thinking, “What got into him last night?” Great leaders, in spite of their challenges, have a contagious enthusiasm about moving the vision of the organization forward. A team will rally around a leader with conviction. You may need to take a break, get re-energized, and come at the plan again with renewed fervor. That’s what good leaders do.

Verse 8 Real help comes from God. Your blessing clothes your people!

David assumed his rightful place as a leader and began to invest in others. As David looked to God for his strength, his people could look to him to lead them. Now, ultimately, in the days of grace, each of us respond and are accountable to God directly, but God uses leaders to instill vision and values, and encourage others to move forward, even during dark days.

Fellow leader, are you in a tough situation right now?

Maybe you lead a church, a business, a non-profit or even a family, but if what or who you lead has fallen on hard times, follow the example of David.

Lead your team to victory!

With God on your side, who can be against you?

A Potential Problem With a Servant’s Heart

Teenagers Serving A Meal To A Man

I was talking to the Executive Director of a homeless ministry recently. Everyday they feed hundreds of meals. Every night the ministry boards dozens of men and women. They clothe people. They help prepare people for job interviews. It’s an amazing ministry, doing great work.

But everything isn’t great.

The leader is tired, the budget is stretched, and the volunteer base is thin. Everyone is worn out emotionally and physically.

What’s the real problem? The real challenge? 

It was easy to diagnose as an outsider.

The leader is too busy serving to ever lead.

She never has time to recruit volunteers, let alone train them. She never has time to do board development. She never has time to fundraise. She never has time to cast the vision. She never has time to plan and dream. She never has time to invest in anything that lasts bigger than today.

And, she never has time to take care of herself. Ever.

All things she verbally recognizes she needs to do.

It’s the real problem. It’s the real challenge to the ministry.

And, if she’s not careful…and I hate to be the one to say this to such a wonderful ministry — eventually, it has the potential to tremendously cripple the ministry. In fact, the future of the ministry, in my professional organizational leadership opinion, is in jeopardy now. And, she is personally a time bomb waiting to explode in burnout.

And, she is one example. But, she is not unique. I’ve seen it many times. I see it among my pastor friends.

Show me a constantly over-worked leader. Show me continually stressed volunteers. Show me a thin budget. Show me a ministry with more demands than the resources or people to meet them…

And, I’ll show you a ministry that is headed for certain trouble unless something is addressed.

It reminds me of the hardest thing I’ve seen for ministers to do who love doing ministry — people with a servant’s heart.

If he or she has a heart to serve others. If he or she loves helping people — connecting with people — ministering to people…

The hardest thing to do…

Is to step back and see the bigger picture.

They have a hard time stopping ministry long enough to explore longer-term issues. They have a hard time doing, what seems to be at the time, unproductive work. People need to be fed. People are hurting. That’s why the ministry exists, right?

And, I get that. I’ve lived that. I even applaud the heart. It’s that heart that possibly prompted them into the ministry. It’s a great heart.

The problem is that it isn’t sustainable long-term. Even Jesus “slipped away” from the crowds. Even Elijah needed to be strengthened.

My advice:

Be willing to stop feeding one so you can feed dozens more in months to come.

Spend time developing the board. Spend time recruiting more volunteers. Spend time raising more funds. Spend time casting the vision to the community. Spend time caring for yourself. Spend time relaxing at the feet of Jesus.

It will seem you’re neglecting the ministry for a time, but in the big picture, you’ll be building a better and stronger ministry. And, you’ll be a healthier leader.

What do you need to stop doing now so you can see even more done later? 

7 Ways the Leader Sets the Bar

image

The leader sets the bar for the organization.

If you are a leader of an organization then you have the awesome responsibility of establishing the parameters by which your organization will be successful.

Now, as I feel the need in every post like this, Jesus sets the bar. Period. He is our standard. But, it would be foolish to ignore the fact that God allows people to lead, even in the church. And, as Christian leaders, we set the bar in our church for many of the things that happen in the church.

A mentor of mine always says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership”. He didn’t make up the saying, but he’s learned in his 70+ years experience how true a statement it is. Are you leading with the idea that you are setting the bar for the people you are trying to lead?

Here are 7 ways the leader sets the bar:

Vision casting – The God-given vision to the people is primarily communicated by the senior leader. Others will only take it as serious as you do. Keeping it ever before the people primarily is in your hands.

Character – The moral value of the church and staff follows closely behind its senior leadership. Our example is Jesus, and none of us fully live out that standard, but the quality of the church’s character — in every major area of life — will mirror closely to the depth of the leader’s character.

Team spirit – If the leader isn’t a cheerleader for the team, they’ll seldom be any cheerleaders on the team. Energy and enthusiasm is often directly proportional to the attitude of the leader.

Generosity – No church — and no organization for that matter — will be more generous than that of its most senior leadership. There may be individuals who are generous, but as a whole people follow the example of leadership in this area as much or more than any other.

Completing goals and objectives – The leader doesn’t complete all the tasks — and shouldn’t — but ultimately the leader sets the bar on whether goals and objectives are met. Complacency prevails where the leader doesn’t set measurable progress as a value and ensure systems are in place to meet them.

Creativity – The leader doesn’t have to be the most creative person — seldom is — but the team will be no more creative than the leader allows. A leader that stifles idea generation puts a lid on creativity and eventually curtails growth and change.

Pace – The speed of change and the speed of work on a team is set by the leader. If the leader moves too slow — so moves the team. If the leader moves too fast — the team will do likewise.

Team members will seldom outperform the bar their leader sets for them. Consequently, and why this is so important a discussion, an organization will normally cease to grow beyond the bar of the leader.

Be careful leader of the bars you set for your team.

One Way to See a Successful Change

Chalkboard with text Changes

Here is one key to successful change. 

Try replacing one something with one something else.

The problem with change is that people fear losing something they’ve grown to value…something they’ve grown comfortable with in their life…something they love. 

One key to successful change is to replace the thing your changing with something they’ll love even more.

You can’t do it everytime. Sometimes you just have to let things go. And, even with this change is never easy. But, when possible, give them something better rather than nothing at all. You’ll help them better embrace the change long-term and help build a culture more conducive to change.

Try it.