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Why leaders should speak last in meetings

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.

As the leader of a company, you may feel compelled to talk the most in meetings. But in my experience coaching business leaders, rarely does dominating meetings lead to success for the longevity of your company. Here's why speaking last in meetings is important for you and your team:

It gives all personality types a chance

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In meetings, there are typically four different personality types: Dominant, Expressive, Analytical, and Amiable. If you are a leader with Dominant and Expressive traits, it is especially important to ensure the Analyticals and Amiables are heard. But, as the leader, it's your job to set the stage.

When you have quieter, more reserved people in a meeting, the best thing you can do as the leader is hold your ideas back until the end. Too often, leaders offer their ideas first. But people don't become confident, or grow as leaders, by listening to what you have to say. Instead, you need to encourage members of the team to offer their ideas first, especially those less inclined to speak up.

Ask the quieter types – the Analyticals and the Amiables – and junior folks what they're thinking. One day, those junior members will become senior leaders and the quiet types may also be required to run meetings. The more confidence they acquire, the better, more effective leaders they will become. Some of your senior leaders may also fall under the less talkative Analytical and Amiable categories.

Once you've called on the junior and quieter types, then move on to the more talkative types and then the senior staff. When you solicit feedback in this way, you build people's confidence and ensure that you hear from all viewpoints. Plus, if a good idea emerges, then the team has solved the problem on its own, which builds confidence and unity, too.

By growing other leaders, you're able to focus on higher-level initiatives

When subordinates can successfully manage meetings, then CEOs, their C-suite officers, and other leaders in the company will have the time and freedom to focus on higher-level initiatives. This is crucial. Time and freedom to hone in on the highest-priority tasks isn't a mere luxury; it's a necessity if a business is to expand and fulfill its potential.

As CEO, one of the things I've found to be extremely useful in helping people grow is my speaking less. Different personality types manifest in meetings. Some people are more vocal, while others remain quiet. But just because people are quiet doesn't mean they don't have ideas. They do. If you can create a format where everyone can speak and share their ideas, then the vocal people will likely hear their own and new ideas coming from those quiet sources. In fact, when I spoke less in meetings, I often heard my ideas pitched by others.

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It raises confidence in your team

If you raise the skill level of your people, you will raise their confidence. But their confidence will never grow unless they're able to raise a good idea and have others engage with it. When an idea is accepted by the team, then the person who raised it will begin to feel confident to raise more ideas. This is exactly what you and the company needs.

For example, let's say I'm the CEO, and you're part of my frontline staff. We have the same idea about where to go for dinner: a Mexican restaurant. Well, if I suggest it, you'd say something like, "Yeah, I was thinking the same thing." But it doesn't make you feel good, because you didn't say it first. But if you suggest Mexican, and I respond, "That's a great idea. I was thinking the same thing," all of a sudden, you're thinking, "Wow, he liked my idea," and you feel a burst of confidence. Now, you're more likely to raise other, bigger ideas in the future.

It drives the company in the direction you want to go

As CEO, it's not important to share your ideas; it's important to drive the company in the direction you want to go. The best way to do that is to develop leaders – people who can think critically, who are comfortable sharing their ideas, and who engage in debates. Meetings lose all value when you run them like a power trip. In fact, they need to be the opposite.

Get more tips on managing effective meetings in the new book Meetings Suck: Turning One of the Most Loathed Elements of Business into One of the Most Valuable by Cameron Herold, best-selling author and founder of the COO Alliance, which helps COO's become better leaders.

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