These are Atlassian's internal guidelines on how to run a productive meeting – including a firm no interruption rule

iStockInclusive meetings prioritise diverse voices.

Atlassian has released its internal playbook in a move it believes will provide companies guidance on helping staff from diverse backgrounds integrate into the workplace and to run more effective meetings.

The Australian tech unicorn has been pushing hard to be at the forefront of best practices in workplace culture and diversity for years – and now they have a mission to share publicly what they have learned in the hope of helping other companies work towards a better environment for employees and ultimately aid retention of staff.

Earlier this month, Atlassian released more parts of its playbook online so other companies could implement the company’s internal initiatives in their own workplace. The playbook includes educational tools for what they call “building belonging” such as inclusive meetings and a diversity assessment that digs into data to help maintain diverse workplaces, rather than simply building them.

Aubrey Blanche, Atlassian’s Global Head of Diversity & Belonging, told Business Insider Australia that although the suggestions may seem simple, they can have a huge impact on someone that has been ignored meeting after meeting.

“Things like equal seating – so, be conscious of: are all the men at the table and the women are at the edge? – it matters how people make everyone feel welcome. Introduce people. This is just good business practice because when it breaks down it hurts those folks who are underrepresented the most,” Blanche said.

“Just having good practices in place you create the better experience. And it’s like the no interruptions rule: get everyone in the action, so make sure everyone’s had a chance to speak, interrupt people when they interrupt.

“For the person who’s been interrupted every single meeting of her life, suddenly it stops happening, it’s a huge jump in the quality of experience.”

With a unique insight into Silicon Valley and the issues the large technology companies have had to deal with, Atlassian believes it can help change the way companies operate by sharing its insights.

So, if you’ve been wondering how Atlassian makes sure it’s meetings are productive and diverse voices are heard, here’s how you can implement a similar strategy at your work:

Preparation before the meeting

Write a detailed meeting agenda and send it to all participants at least 24 hours in advance

Atlassian notes that you should write the agenda as a list of questions, to help prepare people for a discussion. To provide a safe space for introverts and people with different communication styles or who process information differently, ensure the agenda is in everyone’s hands with enough time before the meeting starts.

Be selective with meeting invitees

The more people, the more chaotic a meeting is and the less chance voices can be heard. Atlassian encourages you to send out an invite to the people in the company you believe can contribute the most and ask invitees to decline the meeting if they feel they can’t contribute to the discussion. Providing an agenda ahead of time will help them come to this decision.

Budget enough time to cover everything on the agenda

Sure, no one wants to spend hours in useless meetings. But to ensure everyone gets to have their say and that a worthwhile discussion takes place based on those opinions, you need to make sure you have enough time. It’s a fine balance but perfecting the time-pressure equation will make for a more productive meeting.

Setting up the meeting

Use equal seating to suggest equal value

Look around the table and ensure that everyone has a seat where they are comfortable and can communicate easily. If you spot people gathered down one end, ask them to spread out across the table. For remote meetings, you can also request each participant dials in from their desk so you have a virtual spot for all participants.

Make everyone feel welcome

To promote inclusion, the host of the meeting should briefly introduce everyone, or ask them to introduce themselves, and state why they have been invited to the meeting. It will help attendees understand the reason why everyone has a seat at the table.

Lay some ground rules

An important rule to set is that no one talks over another person in the room and that others may call them out if it happens. If you have remote attendees calling in, let the room know to bring them into the discussion and make it clear how they will alert the group that they want to speak.

Communicate the structure of how people will speak in the meeting, whether it goes around the table, people can jump in when someone has finished speaking or whether there is a speaking totem that can be passed around.

Review meeting roles and agenda, clarify any confusion

Communicate to the group who is in charge of each agenda item and what the goals of the meeting are.

Tricks for inclusive meetings

Atlassian advises to rely on these tricks as the need arises to encourage more collaboration.

Get everyone in on the action

It’s easy for introverted people to get trampled in a meeting, so make sure everyone is given the space to speak by calling on them individually. It’s also important with remote participants, that they are called on and presented with the opportunity to speak regularly.

Interrupt interruptions

This is a big one for anyone who has been invited to a meeting only to have every point trampled by someone more extroverted. Atlassian says the way to fix this is by allowing meeting participants to call out someone who is being silenced inadvertently in a meeting and to support others to do the same. You should be firm, but fair, with a phrase such as: “Hold on, Jessica – I want to make sure I understand Bob’s point before moving on.”

Following the meeting, Atlassian advises that you should talk to a repeat offender and bring it to their attention in the hope they can change their behaviour in the next meeting.

Give credit where credit’s due

Having your idea appropriated by someone else in a meeting is the worst. Prevent this by acknowledging a participant’s contribution publicly in the meeting and highlight the value added by their idea.

Use the power of the pen

This is a smart trick to distract a person that is hogging the microphone. A work meeting isn’t karaoke. The playbook advises that to keep a big-mouthed talker quiet, ask them to be the scribe. It’s hard to take notes and over-participate.

Write and share

Some people prefer to process information before they speak their mind. To ensure these personalities have the time to shine, following a question, ask everyone to take a moment to write their thoughts down before the discussion takes place.

Clean up as you go

Following each agenda item, agree on and write down the next steps with clear deadlines. For each agenda item, write down the person who will be accountable.

End on the right note

Wrap it up

To finish the meeting, review the key topics, decisions and action points to make sure the group is aligned. Clarify who is responsible and the deadlines expected. Thank everyone for their time and share the value you believe the meeting provided.

Follow up

When the meeting is over, the work begins. Shortly after the meeting, send a follow up email with all the action items, who is responsible and deadlines. For those people that like to process things, request any further ideas or thoughts from the group. And finally, keep tabs on the action items or delegate the follow up to someone on your team. If they can’t be completed, ask the team to re-evaluate the deadline. Follow ups will create a culture of accountability.

With that structure in mind, you are now ready to have an inclusive meeting that will help build a stronger work culture, that prioritises diverse voices.

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