Leadership Communication Skills: “Checking In” With Apathetic Team Members
Written by Renée Safrata - firstname.lastname@example.org, November 02nd, 2010
Have you ever led a meeting where one of your team members sat slumped in their chair, arms crossed, and not said a word for the duration?
Often we hire individuals to be members of our team because they have a particular skill set. A VP of Marketing, for example, can be highly committed and competent when designing consistent marketing messages… BUT not be committed nor competent when collaborating during a team meeting.
This is a problem.
All members need to be fully engaged in order for meetings to operate effectively. So how do we use our leadership communication skills to provide direction and support for apathetic team members?
Holding a meeting “check-in” is the first vital step. A check-in encourages team members to effectively solve problems, make decisions, get results, and even celebrate successes. And it’s also an effective way to reach out to disengaged team members. (Read my post on using the check-in to increase team productivity.)
As a facilitator, I am often brought in to be the interim leader of a meeting to work towards developing a more effective leadership communication style. Here’s how I use a check-in to that end:
- I clearly illustrate what a check-in includes: “Please tell us what you are working on, how heavy your current project load is, what your “stuck-points” are, and whatever else you think we need to know.”
- When the response is a reluctant two-word sentence, I direct the uncommunicative team member to “say more.” Once the team member is asked to explain more about their project load, I notice that their arms are no longer crossed, and that they are formulating five- to six-word sentences.
- I spend some time with the uncommunicative team member describing how the check-in can help increase team productivity. Once they understand that communicating during team meetings is an important part of their job, they usually become more forthright.
Although you might notice greater engagement during the first check-in you conduct, remember that building effective communication skills is a process. Over time, check-ins usually begin to occur without leadership prompts.
As leaders and peers of team meetings, we need to stand up for effective communication. If there is an individual on our team who is disengaged, we need to use our own leadership communication skills and cross-lead to increase competence.
Do your team meetings involve check-ins? How have you used your leadership skills to engage uncommunicative team members?
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