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In my team where I'm the team lead, sometimes a couple of members make comments that the team spends a lot of time in meetings and discussions.

It's worth mentioning, that both these members from the same eastern european culture where communication is not valued as much as actions.

The problem is that team does not really communicate enough and sometimes I need to discuss admin questions with these team members in private meetings but they don't see much value in talks.

My aim is to promote communication in the team and highlight its importance but I need to find right words and action/processes to do it.

What is an effective way to overcome this resistance to important communication?

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    Are your team members opposed to communicating or opposed to meetings? Because the latter is one of the worst possible ways to implement the former. – Erik Jul 29 '18 at 9:17
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    they complain both about meetings and a lot of discussions (email etc). while there is a space to improve in this space and reduce mettings slightly, most of discussions and meetings have significant value for the company. – Mark Jul 29 '18 at 9:19
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    How do you know they don't communicate enough? What is the result? – Kilisi Jul 29 '18 at 9:43
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    they a slightly strange, probably cultural background or smth: they raise a lot of team issues themselves but when I start discussion about things they raised they don't participate a lot, decline related meetings and complain about waste of time on useless discussions. Onc – Mark Jul 29 '18 at 9:53
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    I think your question needs to clearly state the investment that everyone has in the meeting. If it delays some people's schedule and provides them with nothing they might well object. --- Once a manager explained to me that he was a couple of minutes late due to being caught in a meeting, I replied that it was understandable as sometimes there is a meeting about a meeting. He agreed and implemented 'well planned meetings' putting an end to 'meeting day' and 'clairifaction/confirmation meetings'. – Rob Jul 29 '18 at 10:44
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My aim is to promote communication in the team and highlight its importance but I need to find right words and action/processes to do it. How would you handle this?

Practice, just like anything else.

Analyse how you're running the meetings, how many and how long and if they're efficient. Once you're sure of that then enforce it in such a way that it's not overbearing.

If a team member brings up something that will then be discussed in a meeting, make them explain it and try and make them think about the issue and do most of the work by passing it back to them. So they say their bit and if no one else has anything to add you pass it back to them... 'what is a good resolution do you think'... as if you think their input is valuable. It just takes practice and patience.

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If depends on whether you really hold too many meetings.

As a person who has witnessed that, I know this may be the case. It's frustrating when you need to spend a lot of time in useless meetings, especially if you have a lot of work.

A short checklist:

  1. Does every meeting has a clear goal? Does this goal make sense? Wouldn't it be possible to reach the goal by other means?
  2. Does every meeting have a clear structure or is it just random remarks, some of which aren't even related to the topic at hand?
  3. Do you start and end on time?
  4. Do some people hijack the meetings, making it impossible for other people to contribute? Consider that people differ. Some people are more introverted and don't feel comfortable having to shout or quarrel to be listened to.
  5. Who is invited to these meetings? Are these only people there who really need to be there?
  6. Is the discussion professional, on topic?
  7. Do your meetings only serve to legitimise some decisions? Sometimes meetings are organised for managers to legitimise decisions which they have taken beforehand ("We've discussed it and decided that...")
  8. The problem of accountability. Personally, it's important to me that I can only be held accountable for the decisions I took. If I did the wrong thing, I will own up to it! Of course sometimes I'm made to do something I don't agree with. But then I want it to be recognised that the decision was taken by e.g. my boss or bosses or by everybody in the discussion despite my objection. I can't be blamed for a decision that didn't work out but which was taken by "everybody" or my boss although officially it lies in my area of responsibility. Are you clear on responsibilities?

Exchange is good. But it's important to keep the accountability straight and to organise it correctly.

Only after you make sure your meetings and discussions make sense you can try to convince the two team members that they offer an added value. Use examples from the past to name situations in which other people's contributions solved a problem or improved the quality of the solution accepted.

Btw, there's quite a bit of research that confirms that "brainstorming" is useless and people working individually get better results than by discussing it freely in groups.

  • I mostly agree but with two notable exceptions. Accountability: you fail and succeed as team, not as individual. Brainstorming: it has been proved (for me, at least) extremely effective if well done, with the right persons and with adequate personal preparation. – Adriano Repetti Jul 29 '18 at 13:25
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    @AdrianoRepetti, you have your individual performance review, not your team's. And if this performance review is bad, you will get fired, not your team. It's only fair to assess people on their performance, i.e. have the responsibilities clear. This doesn't mean people shouldn't cooperate. Brainstorming can deliver good results of course. But research shows these results are normally worse than results of individual work. This is linked to accountability. If someone is responsible for sth, they do their best. If everybody is responsible for sth, people don't care so much and contribute less. – BigMadAndy Jul 29 '18 at 13:36
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    Performance review should, ideally, be performed by or with your direct lead. She knows about your contributions to the team regardless team outcomes. I think that to "cover your ass" about any decision you don't agree with is pretty toxic for a team. It leads to unhealthy competition inside the team, it favors the blame game (which is ALWAYS counterproductive) and it negatively affects the team as group. Not to mention then someone will feel "safer" to always disagree. Of course I can't generalise but this is I saw in healthy teams (and companies) I've been lucky to work with. – Adriano Repetti Jul 29 '18 at 16:55
  • Brainstorming? I don't know about those studies, that's why I can say only about myself. As I said, for me it works pretty well (with all the above listed premises) – Adriano Repetti Jul 29 '18 at 16:58
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You seem to be approaching this from the perspective of an abstract belief that Communication is Good and to be frustrated because in your impression for these members "communication is not valued as much as actions."

The key would thus seem to be to set the belief in communication for its own sake aside, and instead focus on specifically how a given communication is necessary to enable appropriate action.

For example:

  • "Let's quickly talk through task x and make sure we're on the same page about what is to be done" If there's resistance to this, ("Of course I will implement what is in the spec, stop bothering me") you can turn it around and ask them to describe to you in their words their impression of what is to be done. If key things seem to be missing, or different from your own interpretation, you can ask questions. It may actually be better to start right out with asking for their interpretation, rather than using that as a fallback.

  • "Customer Y has a problem with Z, let's talk through some ideas for how to fix this and pick one"

  • "Fred can't seem to understand how to use that project you did last week, could you come show he and I together how to work it?"

One thing implicit in this is less formally scheduled "meeting" format communication, and more impromptu as-needed communication. However, in doing this you need to exercise some care about the frequency and timing of interruptions - if you are dealing with, say, software developers who needs large blocks of interruption-free time to concentrate on particularly thorny problems, you'll need to be tuned into when is and is not a good time to interrupt, possibly to the point of literally asking or leveraging times when they get up from their desks. Beware also of scheduling interruptions - "when can we talk about x?" can be a very problematic question, if the person is in the midst of a no-end-yet-in-sight quest to solve pressing problem Y.

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In addition to other good answers on here, you should consider how meetings are scheduled. You don't describe what roles these individuals are in, but if they are in creative roles it is worth reading Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule. To quote a highlight:

But there's another way of using time that's common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can't write or program well in units of an hour. That's barely enough time to get started. ... When you're operating on the maker's schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in.

If these people are in creative roles, including software development, you may want to consider planning meetings so that it does not interrupt their day: so that meetings are all at the end of the day, or at the beginning, so that they have a good block of time to work without interruption.

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The answer from 385703 is good, but I would condense this down further.

We have too many meetings with too many people

The is a mantra that my own company took up after we went meeting and process crazy for a while.

They key thing here is to organize meetings only when they're required and only include the people who need to be there, and if a discussion is required in order to meet or move forward to an objective.

If the meeting has been organised in order to share information that doesn't really require a discussion, then consider doing this by email instead (people can then read that when they want to, or ignore it if they so wish).

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