Since early 2013, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg has been advocating for women in leadership.
In a recent New York Times op-ed cowritten with Wharton professor Adam Grant, she explains that women tend not to speak up in meetings as frequently as men, in part because they are routinely interrupted or ignored.
Sandberg and Grant say it’s the responsibility of leaders to make sure everyone is heard, and they highlight a simple but interesting tactic that Glen Mazzara, a former show runner on “The Walking Dead” and “The Shield,” used to make sure everyone got a chance to speak up:
At “The Shield,” Mr. Mazzara, the show runner, found a clever way to change the dynamics that were holding … two female employees back. He announced to the writers that he was instituting a no-interruption rule while anyone — male or female — was pitching. It worked, and he later observed that it made the entire team more effective.
Mazzara explains in a 2009 interview with the blog Hollywood Writers’ Office his No. 1 rule for meetings, which is gender-neutral:
Do not knock something off the table unless you are going to replace it. Do not just piss on someone’s idea without offering one better. That’s not fair. That’s not kind. That’s not respectful and that’s not your job. Your job is to generate ideas.
For bosses looking to maximise the potential of their employees, the takeaway is this: Don’t let your people be jerks in meetings by interrupting, ignoring, or shooting each other down, and make sure everyone has a chance to speak.
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