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Meetings That Work For All

Folks on my team were sharing and discussing this recent article on Harvard Business Review this morning, which I thought was an excellent exploration of a topic near to my heart. My only real quibble is with the title, which instead of Run Meetings That Are Fair To Introverts, Women, and Remote Workers, should really be something more like "Run Meetings That Are Fair To Your Whole Team." Because when any voice is silenced, we all suffer. 

The article does a great job of highlighting unconscious bias as the main culprit, and suggests simple, straightforward ways to cut those biases off at the knees.

There are three segments of the workforce who are routinely overlooked: introverts, remote workers, and women. As a leader, chances are you’re not actively silencing these voices — it’s more likely that hidden biases at play. Let’s look at these biases and what you can do to mitigate their influence.

Circulate agendas and information in advance. Ask for contributions later in writing. Make conferencing and collaboration technology a top priority when meetings are distributed. Rigorously call out interruptions and condescensions so that all voices are valued. 

If you want to get the most out of your team and your meetings, and to make your team members feel engaged and valued, then why wouldn't you make these relatively simple adaptations in the way that you work?

HubSpot Product Design Team

Part of the problem may be that so many of us learned how to run meetings at some distant point in the past, or we learned more recently from someone who did, and we inherited all sorts of old habits and practices that just don't fit the way people actually work today. If ever they did.

So change can be hard. And yeah, it can feel like you're bending over backwards to adjust to what we've been conditioned to believe are edge-case people or fringe modes of behavior. But if anybody on your team is truly an edge case or out on the fringes, maybe you need to rethink your team. Or rethink how you treat them.

If you value flexible work arrangements, be sure to invest in and use proper conferencing and collaboration technology. If you manage entire teams of likely introverts (hello, so many tech workers), be sure to adapt to the ways that will help them thrive. If you want to see more women in tech, take some simple steps to ensure that the women you hire are valued and visible and have a voice that gets heard.

How will you know that it's working? Well, you could ask. At HubSpot, we run quarterly employee NPS surveys, which gives us an idea of how happy people are. Employees provide specific feedback to explain the score that they gave, which gives us greater insight into what's working and what's not. We also run weekly TinyPulse surveys, which gives us the chance to ask more pointed, specific questions, like how engaged people are feeling in the work of their team, how they feel they're being heard, how their contributions are valued. We try to keep up a constant stream of feedback so we can keep responding quickly to situations and improving over time.

It's one reason why I'm so happy I work at HubSpot, where these things are strongly valued and discussed and practiced every day. I personally work on a team that includes remote workers and team members who regularly collaborate across oceans and time. The majority of our team is in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and an equally important and growing part of our team is in Dublin. I'm part remote, part Cambridge. Many of us are introverts, women, visual communicators, verbal communicators, night owls, morning larks. We all want to work in a way that works for us all.

Are we perfect? No way. But we work every day on making how we work work for all. Because it's about so much more than just how you run meetings. It's about so much more than just an hour of moderately wasted time here and there.

Just for starters:

  • It's a retention issue. We as an industry already know that people who don't feel engaged, heard, and valued quickly become disinterested and leave.
  • It's a recruiting issue. We as an industry already know that people who don't feel engaged, heard, and valued are less likely to recommend their workplace to a friend.
  • It's a productivity issue. We as an industry already know that people do better, faster, and more effective work when they're engaged, heard, and valued. 

Why wouldn't you make some simple adjustments, even bend over backwards, when you know the stakes are so high?