One of the most rewarding and yet challenging aspects of leading coalitions is engaging coalition members in specific tasks. During meetings, many people will have ideas, recommendations and projects that can be implemented by the coalition. When the discussion shifts to assigning tasks and responsibilities, the room or “virtual room” can often become very quiet. While it may be uncomfortable to navigate the next steps, the engagement opportunities come in those moments of silence. Join me this week as I provide three strategies to use when you want more coalition members to take action.
Allow for silence.
When leading a meeting, most of us are comfortable with conversation, discussion and engagement. We are not comfortable with silence. Sometimes silence can indicate that people do not understand a question and need clarification. Other times, silence indicates that people are hoping someone else will volunteer for the task or responsibility. Once you have clarified a task, provide an opportunity for silence and reflection. Personally, allowing silence is most difficult for me when I know that I have the skills or experience with a particular task. However, if I volunteer, that prevents others from having an opportunity. In my current season, volunteering for one more task means that I am overloading my existing schedule and cannot follow-through with existing commitments. A few weeks ago, I participated in a meeting calling for a small group to support evaluation efforts for a project. And there was silence – a lot of silence. Although I was incredibly uncomfortable, I knew that I did not have the time or capacity to participate in this way and did not volunteer. As we all waited in silence, no one else volunteered and I kept struggling but remaining quiet. Toward the end of the conversation, I realized that I could connect the group to others who may be a good fit for this role and offered that opportunity without volunteering myself for the role. This was a win! You can do it too!
Ask specific people.
During meetings, pay attention to the specific concerns, ideas and recommendations from the coalition members, and make notes on who may be a good fit for a specific task. When someone is willing to share their perspective on an issue, they may be more likely to help lead a task related to that issue. In a recent coalition meeting, one participant shared a concern and another participant validated and supported that concern. I asked if they would work together to put together a list of the concerns in one place and share with the group. Another participant commented on the need for addressing these concerns and I asked if they would be willing to work together on this effort. While they may not have openly volunteered, once I acknowledged their ideas and asked for their willingness to take action on a small part of the task, they agreed. Now, the coalition staff can organize these specific actions, tasks, people, groups and timelines in one place and provide follow-up encouragement for accomplishing the tasks as well as room to share progress during one of the next coalition meetings.
Divide the tasks.
One of the reasons many projects are delayed or never completed is because each task is too big and complex. When we have many tasks disguised as “one” task, our coalition members are less likely to volunteer to take action on them. As we consider the details involved in the big, complex tasks and can divide them into smaller, more manageable tasks, we create opportunities for increased engagement. While you may not always know all the tasks involved in a particular project, you can begin developing that alongside your coalition members and then work together to divide the tasks and the work. When people see that a task is more specific, tangible, realistic and timebound, they are often more comfortable volunteering for it.
What about you? Which of these strategies are you going to try during your next coalition meeting?
If you want more ideas on coalition engagement, check out my free resource, 10 Essential Coalition Engagement Skills.