Length: 30 minutes
The aim of this exercise is to collect some data about the balance of voices in the team.
People will have a fair idea already about who talks a lot and who doesn't say very much, but it often surprises people when numbers are put on the interactions.
The data will then be used as the basis for a discussion about whether the team thinks some people should try to contribute a bit more, and some should make an effort to leave a bit more space for others.
It is remarkable how many people step in and talk, whenever there is a short silence. They often think they are being helpful, but in reality they are stopping more reticent team members from coming forward. The reticent ones are sometimes happy to 'hide behind' their talkative colleagues, but the research shows clearly that better decisions come from a wider range of inputs. "Listen up, speak up, hush up" is the mantra here - everyone should listen well, quieter members should speak up more, and the loudest should learn to hush up!
Ask one team member (or someone external to the meeting) to be an observer of one of your meetings. Their job is to make a note of who is talking - by jotting down their initials - at regular intervals (eg every 10 or 15 seconds) for a period of 15 minutes or longer. Ideally this is done during an open team discussion, rather than during a long presentation by a single person!
The observer should be able to set a watch or phone to vibrate quietly (ie so that only they can hear it) after 15 seconds then press restart before noting down who was talking.
At the end of the session the whole team looks at the numbers and discusses them using some of the following questions:
Was the recorded discussion a 'typical' discussion? (NB The loudest member is sometimes quieter when they know someone is taking a snapshot of the interactions in the meeting).
Did everyone get a 'fair' opportunity to contribute? ( NB 'Fairness' is not a simple idea. In the discussion you might want to distinguish between:
Fairness of opportunity (ie could everyone contribute if they wanted to) vs fairness of outcome (ie did everyone get a similar amount of airtime)
Equality vs equity (fairness may not mean everyone gets EQUAL airtime, it might mean each team member gets an APPROPRIATE amount of airtime given the topic of conversation)
Does this tell you anything about whose contributions were valued most, and whose less so? Was that appropriate for this topic? Does it tell you anything about how diversity is valued in the team?
What can be learned? Do the team want to encourage some team members to speak more and some less? How will you do that? Look at the inclusion page for possibilities then agree actions and review in four meetings' time.
Exercise - Team Inclusion Snapshot 2