How Leaders Can Orchestrate Meetings For 100% Participation

We have all heard about the 20/80 ratio of team member participation in meetings and how the goal is to shift the ratio from 20/80 to 80/20. What about 100% participation? Setting this goal and attaining it requires deep thought into why some members hold back. I am going to use the analogy of the conductor of an orchestra.

Even if it is a small part in the orchestral piece being performed, they are vital and thus valued for the part they play.

Every player has a part to play in the orchestra. Each musician brings the expertise of their instrument in order to produce a fine piece of music. Even if it is a small part in the orchestral piece being performed, they are vital and thus valued for the part they play. Consider the person who plays the timpani. That individual may wait and count endless bars of music before hitting the drums to add a timbre and sound like no other instrument can produce. Using this analogy is a way to start considering your team members. What part do they play on the team? What unique talent do they possess, adding value to the team as a whole? These are some of the questions you can ask to begin to understand why some members hold back.

Once you uncover their unique strength, the next question to consider is, are they aware of their strengths? I know this may sound odd. However, often when coaching, I will realize a strength that my client has and comment, “That is a strength you bring!” After I say this, I am usually met with a long pause, and then the common response is, “Really? I just do this naturally.” We explore this strength at length. I get them to articulate it to bring awareness of the value of it and how they need to own it as a strength. By having this awareness, they can use it more productively and consciously. Each individual I work with begins to realize how they can better use their strength and bring value to their team. My point here is, some individuals hold back from participating, unaware of the strengths they bring to the team because they “just do this naturally” and are unconscious of the value of this strength.

Like a conductor, leaders need to know the strengths of each team member and the value their expertise brings to the team.

Gaining a deep understanding and awareness of what each member of your team brings, will not only help draw them out in team meetings but also gives you an edge when it comes to how to make the best use of their talents. If you are not sure of the strengths they bring, have them take an emotional intelligence assessment to uncover their strengths and what needs development. From this assessment, they can design a plan to gain additional strengths.

In review, here are some of the key questions you should ask (and answer) in order to bring about 100% participation during team meetings:

1. How come some members hold back?

2. What prevents them from participating?

3. What part do they play on the team?

4. What unique talent or strength do they possess?

5. Are they aware of their strengths?

These five questions are more of a circular loop that leads to more questions rather than a linear process. For example, if the answer is “yes” to that last question — are they aware of their strengths? — you must consider why they hold back. How is the meeting conducted? Do some members dominate the meeting? Do some members bring attention to themselves as a norm for the meetings? Do you, as the person leading the meeting, tend to dominate the meeting rather than orchestrate the flow so it becomes a platform for 100% participation? If you tend to dominate or allow others to dominate the meeting, how can you conduct the meeting more like a conductor where each player participates?

Using only the baton, without saying a word, the conductor points, draws out, leans in with subtle nuances, and indicates who needs to start playing. The conductor only uses body language, thereby illuminating how effective that can be. Body language is a huge part of how we communicate. Consider using your arms to beckon to someone as a way to draw them into the discussion along with a question that calls upon their strengths.

In this manner, you are orchestrating a meeting, so every member has participated. Having a goal of 100% participation is not about how much someone has contributed, it is, like the timpani player, the idea that they participated at a crucial moment to bring in a different voice, a different timbre. And, like the conductor at the end of the performance, acknowledge the orchestra. Recognizing your team after the meeting for their contributions will encourage a 100% outcome for future meetings.

First published on Forbes and featured here with Author permission.


Melinda Fouts, Ph.D.
Melinda Fouts, Ph.D.
Melinda Fouts, Ph. D., International Executive Coach, Psychotherapist is a select Columnist & Featured Contributor for BIZCATALYST 360° and a Member of the Forbes Coaches Council (comprised of Top coaches offering insights on leadership development & careers), and founder of Success Starts with You. She was recently chosen to receive the Empowered Woman of the Year Award for 2021 given by the International Association of Top Professionals (IAOTP). She also received the honor as the top international coach of the year in 2020 by the IAOTP. She provides visionary leadership in her field and her many credentials prove she has the ability to empower women worldwide. Her exemplary role as a female professional in a male-dominated industry displays her influence, capability, and proficiency. Inclusion with the International Association of Top Professionals (IAOTP) is an honor in itself, only a few women are chosen for this distinction based on their years of experience, professional accomplishments, academic achievements, leadership abilities, and contributions to their communities. With innovation and compassion, these women empower others to reach their goals, while creating change for future generations. With over 2 decades of professional experience as a business coach and psychotherapist, Dr. Fouts has proven herself as an accomplished professional and expert in the field. As a dynamic, results-driven leader, Dr. Fouts has demonstrated success not only as an Executive Business Coach, but in every role she has held. Prior to executive coaching and leadership development, Melinda has been in private practice as a psychotherapist for over 20 years. She leverages her strengths and insights from her psychology background to help leaders and managers in transition through increased self-awareness. Owner and founder of Success Starts with You, is based upon the premise that you are already successful. Increasing self-awareness to increase emotional intelligence and unlocking blind spots are paramount to continued success. Dr. Fouts leverages her strengths and insights from her psychology background to help leaders and managers in transition through increased self-awareness and discovering their blind spots. It can be lonely at the top and as a thought partner, she makes sure you are not alone. Dr. Fouts’ unique approach from other business coaches is that she helps get rid of thinking and behavioral patterns that tend to keep executives stuck. Her key areas of expertise include but are not limited to: small business consulting, enhancing emotional intelligence, self-awareness, unlocking fullest potential, brainstorming, identifying limitations, challenges, obstacles and optimizing performance. In addition, her successful career as a Psychotherapist and International Executive Business Coach, Dr. Fouts is a sought-after speaker whose key-note address to Women’s Leadership Conferences is Channeling Feminine Power in the Face of Adversity. Her newly released book, Cognitive Enlightenment, was to be presented at the London Book Fair, March 2020, the NY Book Fair, May 2020, and the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2020 until COVID hit. Melinda received her Ph.D. in Jungian Psychology from Saybrook University and her Masters in Psychology from Pacifica University. Melinda has worked as a consultant with executives and businesses for over 20 years. As a result of her experience and studies, she has developed a unique craft to fine-tune leadership development for peak performance. She lives in Colorado with her big, beautiful dog, Stryder. For more information on Dr. Fouts please visit:

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