From time to time we all have led groups that, for some reason, are slow to participate or allow one or two people to dominate discussion, then accept their ideas by default. Obviously such a circumstance represents a waste of time and talent. Everyone holds the potential to contribute an idea or solution to benefit the group. If they do not, they should not be invited to the meeting.
To counter reluctance in participation, try these approaches:
- Present the meeting topic or challenge in advance and ask each person to bring a written idea/solution with them to the meeting. Collect each person’s idea or solution as their ticket to the meeting. As a result, you will have a collection to examine from the beginning to jump-start discussion.
- If participation wanes within a meeting, stop and ask each person to jot down their perspective, idea, or potential solution. Once each person has completed the task, ask participants to share their ideas with the group. Again, discussion likely will pick up as each person has contributed something for consideration.
- Have people place their ideas, suggestions, or solutions on Post-it notes and post them in a visible, common area. Then, have participants group ideas, etc., by theme or category. Follow by focusing the discussion on the clusters and ask those whose responses are in the cluster to comment, explain, or defend their contributions. Use the same strategy you use in class with students—call on all the teachers, not just the ones with their hands up.
If none of these approaches work, you may need to look further to discover what’s getting in the way. It may be conflict or lack of trust within the group. It may be something in your facilitation or relationship with the group. Just know that until you deal with it, the situation is not likely to improve.