It’s comforting to know that even the CEO of a tech giant is still learning a few things about how to run meetings. That’s exactly what Google chief executive Sundar Pichai recently confessed to Inc. magazine, as part of a wide-ranging interview about the emotional sides of his job.
The pandemic has exacerbated some issues around meetings, particularly when it comes to getting everyone on a particular team to participate. “I’ve had to rethink a lot in the context of virtual meetings,” Pichai told the magazine. “Virtual meetings are harder, because everyone’s looking at the person leading the meeting. And while some naturally participate, others hold back. I try to bring those people in, to make sure everyone participates.”
If that sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone: Throughout the past year, technologists everywhere have struggled with “Zoom fatigue,” not to mention the difficulties of maintaining consistent, effective communication with remote colleagues. The solution, Pichai suggested, is to compel everyone to speak; he likes to go around the table and ask people to state their position on a particular issue.
“This helps everyone not only to feel heard, but also to feel that they have a stake in the outcome,” he added.
While consciously prompting people to speak is particularly important during virtual meetings, it can (and should) also apply to in-person meetings. Businesses everywhere are trying to become more inclusive and diverse; a key part of that is ensuring that everyone, including employees from underrepresented groups, feels comfortable about voicing opinions on strategy and products.
Whether virtual or in-person, ensuring that everyone’s heard can also help boost team morale and prevent burnout. While overwork is often cited as a key cause of burnout, technologists have also reported that a lack of recognition for their work, friction with their boss, monotony, and issues with the broader team can all lead to feeling totally fried. Being included in the team’s conversation—and feeling like their concerns are heard—can hopefully mitigate at least some of those factors, but it’s up to managers and team leaders to ensure that happens.
It’s also worth noting that Pichai explored the idea of no meetings late last year, after Google employees complained that they were getting burned out. However, that initiative didn’t seem to extend beyond a slow week in December. As much as some folks don’t like them, meetings remain a vital part of ensuring that teams run smoothly—and leaders need to give everyone on the team a chance to voice their opinions on the matters at hand.