We’ve all been there – sitting in a meeting watching the two most important people in the room have a conversation while the rest of the meeting goers take notes, nod their heads or zone out.

In any business meeting, the only way to get the best ideas on the table is to make sure everyone feels comfortable enough to get their ideas out there. We’ve all heard that two heads are better than one. Imagine what an entire table of dedicated employees can accomplish! Letting employees get comfortable sitting on the sidelines is a surefire way to stifle innovation and creativity. To make your meetings the most productive, use these engagement tips:

  • Ask employees to write down three ideas in preparation for the meeting
  • For your quieter team member, discuss the action items with them before the meeting and bring their idea to the table at the meeting
  • Stir the pot and people’s comfort with passivity…Seat people together who normally don’t sit together
  • Encourage technology for the right uses, such as note taking
  • Always recap the meeting and call out the people who contributed the best ideas

These techniques will not only get more ideas out there, but your employees will feel empowered to make input. Often, this will spill over to collaboration outside of meetings. Employees will be more likely to seek input from their coworkers. They’ll feel more comfortable sharing ideas, which could turn out to be a huge innovation driver for your organization.

The ideas and engagement of all employees, regardless of where they fall on the hierarchy can add immeasurably to the success of the business. Just as no idea is too small, no employee is too small. Creating a regular regimen in which their opinion matters will increase the chances of making great decisions.  Why field a soccer team with one or two players when you can play with 11? Chances are, getting those other players onto the field and kicking the ball around will make quite a difference in reaching your goals.

By Shirley Engelmeier, author of Inclusion: The New Competitive Business Advantage, and CEO of InclusionINC, a leading global consulting and learning organization specializing in linking inclusion and diversity to better business results through greater engagement, productivity, innovation and retention.