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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

12 ideas to enhance team collaboration and communication skills

Embolden your introverted employees to make their voices heard.

12 ideas to enhance team collaboration and communication skills
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]

When you are leading a diverse group of employees who vary in personality, learning styles, and how they participate in business settings, it’s important to tune in to their needs and make sure your entire team is feeling valued in the workplace and given ample opportunities to be heard.

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Developing multiple lines of communication to enable feedback from every employee on your team is ideal. Doing this will help guide your decision-making process and build on those team suggestions to move the company one step forward in the marketplace.

Below, 12 Fast Company Executive Board members share ideas to encourage introverted team members to speak up during group collaborations or contribute through their preferred method of communication. This is key if you want to avoid always hearing from the same extroverted contributors.

1. LEVERAGE INCLUSIVE DIGITAL TOOLS.

As our company works across countries and cultures, we continue to see varying levels of participation between our team members. Open collaboration is critical for company growth, so leveraging inclusive tools to garner input from everyone is crucial. Providing avenues like interactive apps allows teams to give anonymous, real-time feedback and can make meetings more engaging and productive. – Erad Fridman, Fluxon

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2. START MEETINGS WITH ENGAGING ACTIVITIES. 

Work with your team to implement practices that will encourage everyone’s full participation in group discussions. This includes asking people to come prepared to share ideas with the group, or you may want to start the conversation with some icebreakers. Engaging introverted team members to speak ahead of more extroverted members is also helpful. People can be hesitant to enter into conversations, so ease them in and encourage them to be vocal. – Annette Sally, Blue Sky Agency

3. SHARE YOUR MEETING AGENDA EARLY.

It’s all about the pre-read. Introverts tend to be internal processors, which means they want and need time for reflection, consideration, and preparation. There is no better way to be efficient with everyone’s time than by sharing the agenda to be reviewed before the meeting. It will also focus the conversation and create discipline for the extroverts who love to talk things out. – Michael Margolis, Storied

4. ESTABLISH COMMUNICATION PREFERENCES.

Managers should encourage new employees to express their preferred methods of communication during the onboarding process. Doing this will help facilitate an element of collaboration that may continue to grow based on their understanding. It must gently be established beforehand that there is no wrong answer. – Ido Wiesenberg, Voyantis

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5. CREATE MORE INCLUSIVE COMMUNICATION CHANNELS.

To be more inclusive, create multiple ways for teams to connect with one another. For example, send a pre-brief of what is expected in the sessions. You can also encourage people to participate in a virtual whiteboard session before and after a meeting so they don’t feel like they are being put on the spot. To alleviate any unnecessary anxiety, communicate with your team through chats instead of formal emails. Then always be sure to follow up with team members one-on-one. – Val Vacante, Merkle, a Dentsu company

6. GET TO KNOW QUIET EMPLOYEES BETTER.

Try engaging the quieter members of your team outside of the big meetings. They will likely have a lot to offer, but perhaps they are just uneasy speaking out in front of a big group. Try spending some one-on-one time with them to ease them out of their shell. – Alex Husted, HELPSY

7. PROVIDE ADDITIONAL SUPPORT FOR EMPLOYEES.

This is a problem on so many teams, but it doesn’t need to be. Teams that invest in their employees’ vertical development (i.e., their awareness) do a better job at fostering collaborations where everyone’s voice is heard. However, sometimes certain team members need more support to either step back or consistently speak up. In this case, one-on-one coaching can add incredible value. – Camille Preston, AIM Leadership, LLC

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8. ASK INTROVERTED EMPLOYEES FOR FEEDBACK.

Business leaders who are running meetings should directly include their introverted team members— or any attendees who haven’t spoken up—by asking them for their thoughts. This gives them the opportunity to speak up and ensures that they know their opinions are essential. – Suchit Tuli, Quantime

9. INTRODUCE INTROVERTS TO OTHER KEY LEADERS.

Make the first move and introduce introverts to other key leaders. Most people are situational introverts, but once they feel comfortable with a group, they’ll open up. By teaching my Ivy League students VUCA, which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity and is defined as the ability to shift and respond to changes in the business environment with corresponding actions, I have learned that introverts are more effective leaders in complex and unpredictable settings. Giving introverts their due airtime at meetings will benefit all stakeholders. – Will Conaway, The HCI Group (A Tech Mahindra Company)

10. CREATE SAFE SPACES.

Similar to varied training approaches and because of the diverse learning styles, leaders must get creative with how they connect to different temperaments. The outwardly bold employees have courage in broader forums, whereas the subtle, courageous teammates respond better in intimate settings. That said, leaders should diversify their outreach efforts and create synergies in safe spaces. Potentially, by example, try conducting book clubs, skip levels, and round tables. – Britton Bloch, Navy Federal

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11. CLARIFY THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT. 

Clarify the rules of engagement for your team meetings to ensure that everyone is participating equally, respectfully, and creatively. Leverage break-out rooms to allow introverts to engage more freely or keep your meetings to smaller groups. Invite everyone to reflect on a specific question or challenge prior to the meeting and have them be ready to share one to three recommendations during the meeting. – Andreea Vanacker, SPARKX5

12. MAKE ALL EMPLOYEES FEEL HEARD AND VALUED.

To be inclusive of everyone, especially during virtual meetings, call out an order of respondents in advance, implement silent processing time to avoid making any final decisions to allow for more thoughtful analysis, or even demonstrate that it’s okay not to say anything. Whatever you experiment with, know you must actively create inclusive space to ensure all feel heard and valued. – Bilal Aijazi, Polly

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