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Boosting Team Engagement: The Circle Method for Remote and Hybrid Teams

Updated: Mar 12

This weekly twork* is part of our series to make work better together - get it direct to your inbox.

Getting buy-in and engagement in different areas of work can be such a common issue that lots of our most recent blogs have focused on different ways of tackling this such as the circle method.
Photo Pexels by Monstera Production

Are you a leader or manager frustrated by the challenge of getting participation and input from your team? Remember that time recently when you presented an idea and asked for feedback, but all you could hear were crickets?

We hear it again and again from the managers we work with. These are good, talented, human-focused, inclusive managers and It's still a common issue. Encouraging people in your team (or others) to speak up and input for some managers a constant battle..

In fact, getting buy-in and engagement in different areas of work can be such a common issue that lots of our most recent blogs have focused on different ways of tackling this, such as leveraging the brainpower of your team, using methods such as check-in questions at the beginning of a meeting to improve confidence and share of voice, as well as creating water cooler moments in remote and hybrid teams.

With that in mind we are introducing you to a valuable method that we frequently use at A Better Work, called the Circle Method of Facilitation. We know from experience, that this method can be a game-changer when looking to hear the different voices within your team, especially for those working in a remote or hybrid setting, when it can be more comfortable to sink into the background.

Let's dive in and explore how this approach can enhance communication, feedback and engagement in your team.

Understanding the problem

We've previously discussed the importance of share of voice and using check-in questions to boost confidence and participation during calls. While these methods are extremely helpful in building engagement and confidence, this week's tweak is aimed at improving the dynamics within the main body of your meetings, which lots of teams in remote and hybrid settings can struggle with.

It’s up to you to continuously build psychological safety - meaning people will feel safe enough to speak up and challenge you without fear of repercussions. While this is a twork, there is no silver bullet - you must continuously work on creating space for others to speak up, seek input, hold back on your views until others speak.

This week’s Twork - the Circle Method of Facilitation

This method offers an alternative to the traditional approach of presenting an idea, concept, or proposal and then asking for open input. With the Circle Method, you take a more intentional and structured approach to get input from each team member individually.

Here's how it works:

Use a structured format: Instead of asking for open input from the group, you go to each participant one by one. You might choose to go alphabetically, around your screen or in any order that works for your team.

Ensure Explicit Invitation: When you reach each participant, you explicitly ask for their input. They have the option to provide input or pass. This creates a safe environment where everyone has the opportunity to contribute but not feel the pressure to answer on the spot. Even if someone chooses to pass, they have to consciously decide to pass and use their voice to do so.

Ensure you set guidelines: You can set guidelines, such as limiting responses to a sentence or two or allocating a specific time limit per participant. Adapt these guidelines based on your meeting's nature and the participants involved. One crucial aspect of the Circle Method is that nobody is allowed to interrupt while someone else is speaking. If you have a question or wish to add something, you must wait until your turn. This method of holding back encourages active listening.

Ask for Clarification: If you need clarification or have questions for a participant, you must wait until it's your turn to speak and then address the individual. This ensures everyone's voice is heard without interruptions and without interrupting the flow of the Circle Method.

Multiple Rounds: After completing one full rotation of the circle, allowing each participant to provide input, you can choose to go around the circle again if you feel there is more value to be untapped and allow for responses to questions. This can continue until everyone says "pass," indicating they have finished providing their input.

Why the Circle Method Works

Many leaders want to hear more from their employees, but the power dynamics in a workplace can make it challenging for some to speak up. Being an approachable leader doesn't always guarantee open communication, as your role inherently carries more authority.

That's why intentional structures like the Circle Method are really useful—they provide opportunities for everyone to contribute and ensure that diverse perspectives and ideas are harnessed.

WARNING: This will feel clunky the first few times you do it. It’ll feel awkward and time-consuming. Frankly, you’re right, it is, BUT what you are doing is building a feedback muscle in your team. You are encouraging an equal share of voice and showing that you value more voices and input, and that it’s safe to speak up. Over time you won’t need to use the method in its true form so much as confidence in the team builds and people understand their input is valued.

Give it a try in your next meeting and see the positive impact it has on communication and feedback! Don’t forget to let us know how it goes, and together, let's make work better—one voice at a time!

At A Better Work we work with our clients to make work better and more fulfilling. It's not about happiness, it's about feeling a sense of accomplishment, and building teams that work brilliantly together in good times and bad.

The best bit is all of this is good for your business - for your bottom line, for retention and for customer satisfaction. If you think we can help, reach out for a chat.

Let’s make work better together.

Michelle Wallace


A Better Work


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