Jun 30, 2016

Engineering meetings need confidence and communication

Learning quickly from successes and failures is paramount to innovation. Even when it comes to meetings.

For engineering teams tasked with solving complex problems and creating new technologies, mistakes happen often and each is an opportunity to learn. As CEO of Spotify Daniel Elk put it, the key is to “make mistakes faster than anyone else.” For these mistakes to be learning opportunities and not just failures, they need to be discussed, analyzed, and used to improve the team going forward.

For that reason, agile teams at growing companies like Spotify, NewsCred, and Lingo Live hold frequent retrospective meetings. These meetings bring the team together at the end of each week or sprint to discuss what went well, challenges faced, and how to improve going forward.

However many engineers, especially those who are non-native English speakers, can feel uncomfortable speaking up in group settings.  But for a successful retrospective, full participation is key. Team members must feel comfortable to voice issues and concerns in order provide to valuable feedback.

Here are three ways that improving communication can make your retrospectives more valuable.


1. Improved Participation

Those who are afraid that they won’t be able to articulate their thoughts seldom voice their opinions during meetings. This often results in one or two people dominating every meeting. Ideas for improvements going forward come only from a select group of people and do not reflect the creativity and thoughts of the full team. Additionally, the limited participation from some team members can appear as disinterest, which affects the whole room.

English communication coaching improves confidence, which increases participation. People tend to follow each others’ patterns, so engaged employees engage other employees. The more people that take an active part in the meetings, the more likely that others will follow suit.


2. More Engaging Meetings

Keeping people’s attention during a meeting can be difficult. When a speaker struggles to express a thought clearly, others may begin to lose patience and tune them out instead of asking for clarification.

When people aren’t listening or cannot understand each other, the whole team misses out. Team members can’t learn from the speaker, they can’t provide feedback, and any great ideas the speaker has may go unheard.

The lack of feedback and bored looks make the speaker self conscious and less likely to speak up in the future, perpetuating the participation challenge.

Communication coaching teaches team members to articulate their thoughts in clear and concise ways and keep their colleagues’ attention, resulting in more dynamic and engaging discussions.


3. More Positive Meeting Environment

A positive environment is key.

Engineers in our program had previously reported speaking voluntarily only when necessary. These instance often included disagreeing or providing negative feedback, but rarely providing praise.

If the negative feedback consistently outweighs the positive, team members will be less comfortable and open to sharing.

Communication training helps team members learn how to provide positive comments and verbally recognize their peers. Increasing confidence and participation will make the overall meeting more positive and drive greater impact.


– Jenny Tannenbaum

Interested in reading more about how to conduct engaging meetings?

Check out Skills Engineers Need to Run Effective Meetings and Advocating Why Your Ideas Matter.



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