Why You Should Listen to Your Quietest Teammate

Published: May 21, 2015

Activate an idea circle. Rather than opening a discussion where the most verbal participants shape the conversation, create a structure that invites everyone to pitch in. Often, the best ideas are left unspoken. Sometimes team politics make it unsafe to speak up. Maybe more introverted teammates prefer to listen than talk. An idea circle extracts innovation from the quiet side of the team. Here's a way to turn up the volume.

Commonly used in classroom settings, the idea circle begins with a thought or question posed by a leader. The first teammate to volunteer feedback gets to select the next participant who adds perspective to the exchange. That person, in turn, chooses the next contributor until everyone has had an opportunity to weigh in. Naturally, the idea evolves as the process unfolds.

Listen most carefully to your quietest teammates. They’ve been listening very carefully to you and, more importantly, to the spirit of the process. They are the holders of the big picture while their more vocal counterparts steer the immediate direction of the dialogue. They have the ability to listen from both within and outside of the circle. They hear things others don’t notice.

To whom are you listening? Sponsor a team culture forged on total collaboration rather than partial input. Elevate the voice of the quiet.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst College where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.