Are You Missing Out On Your Team’s Best Thinking?

By Bill Stainton


There’s a very real chance that you’re not hearing your team’s best ideas.

I wonder what that’s costing you.

Many years ago, I was the president of a local non-profit association. Among my eight or so board members was a woman whom I’ll call Chanelle because it sounds exotic. Chanelle was someone whom you might call a “placeholder” on the board. She dutifully showed up at every board meeting, but she didn’t really contribute anything. She sat quietly and voted on things that others proposed. I’m not proud to say this, but after a few meetings, Chanelle became all but invisible to me.

Bad leader, no biscuit!

A few months after my term had expired, I happened to be talking to another colleague, and Chanelle’s name came up. To my utter surprise, my colleague said, “Oh my goodness, she’s brilliant! One of the best brains I’ve ever encountered!”

I’ve since gotten to know Chanelle better, and my colleague was right. She is brilliant. And quiet.

Chanelle is an introvert. She is not, and never will be, the loud one at the meeting.

But it’s the loud ones who get heard. It’s the loud ones who dominate. And, because of this, it’s generally the loud ones who set the agenda and the policies.

However-and I think this has been verified-there is no known correlation between volume and intelligence. The loudest people are not necessarily the smartest. And just because an idea is loud doesn’t mean it’s good.

Here’s what I didn’t realize back then. It’s the leader’s job to make sure that everyone gets heard-including the quiet people. Because the quiet people aren’t going to do it on their own, especially when they are continually interrupted and talked over by the loud people. I’m sure you’ve seen this happen. But unless you’re actively watching out for it, you may not actually notice it. Why? Because, after awhile, it just seems to be the natural order of things. The loud people take control, and the quiet people fade into the background. They become invisible.

So how do you get around this? It’s easier than you may think. All you have to do is put a system in place to make sure that everyone gets heard. The simplest, and most effective, of these systems is this:

When it’s time to discuss an agenda item, you go around the table, and everyone gets uninterrupted time to contribute. And I mean everyone. Nobody is allowed to pass. This might be awkward at first, but it will quickly become the norm.

The three key rules are:

  1. Everyone contributes.
  2. Nobody is allowed to interrupt.
  3. The leader goes last.

Chanelle was a tremendous resource for my team-a resource that I missed completely. If instead, I’d initiated a system like the one I just described, there’s no telling how much better my team might have been, or what kind of results we might have achieved.How about you? Are you missing out on your team’s best thinking? And, if so, what are you going to do about it?



For 15 years, Executive Producer Bill Stainton led his team to more than 100 Emmy Awards and 10 straight years of #1 ratings. Today Bill helps leaders achieve those kinds of results–in THEIR world and with THEIR teams. His website is