Hill of Influence
October 2, 2008, 10:13am PDT | Length: 00:03:48
Team meetings can be tricky. You want everyone to participate, but no one to dominate. So, how do you determine the amount of interaction and how do you shift the balance? Ed Muzio offers up the self-regulating "Hill of Influence" model.
Edward Muzio: Hello, I'm Edward Muzio, CEO of Group Harmonics. Today I'm here to talk about the Hill of Influence model or as I like to call it, 'Talk Up or Shut up during your team meetings.
Working in team meetings can be tricky. You want everyone there to participate and engage, but you don't want anyone to dominate or overtake the meeting. Now, if you have someone who's talking too much or talking too little, you can tell them to talk up or shut up, but that doesn't usually work. The Hill of Influence model is a tool you can use as a mirror to show people how much they're interacting and allow them to adjust for themselves.
Here's how it works: These four circles are like the top view of a hill, a topographical map of a hill that would look like this from the side. The way it works is, the higher up you are up on the hill, the more influential you are, the more you're talking. So this top point here on the hill we would call dominate. That would be 'talking too much'.
Then we have 'tuned way in', 'tuned in', 'tuned out', 'tuned way out'. The idea is, the more tuned in you are, the further up the hill you are. Now here's how it works. At the end of a meeting or a discussion, you give your team members sticky notes and you have them post themselves according to where they think they are. So maybe Lila says, "I was doing all the talking". Maybe Todd was listening. Bill was sort of listening and sort of not. And maybe Maria was really quite distracted. She was tuned way out thinking about other problems she had.
You can see right away, this is not a very balanced state. What you want to strive for is a more balanced, more equal state that's called an equitable norm state. You want everyone either tuned way in or tuned in. That means they're either talking or they're listening. So it should look more like this. Maybe Maria and Bill are listening, maybe Lila and Todd are talking, but everyone is somewhat engaged.
The good thing about this tool is it gives you a visual representation not only of the current state, but of the target. People can see right away whether it's working or not. As people become more attentive to these issues by doing this activity, they'll start to become self‑correcting.
Maybe Lila will start talking a whole lot and dominating again. Either she'll catch herself or someone else will say to her, "Let's hear from someone else", and help her to move back out. Maybe Bill will become distracted, and get very quiet and start thinking about other things until someone says to him, "Bill, what do you think?" That helps to bring him back in. The idea is the team will work for each other and for themselves to make the adjustments.
Now here's another way to use this activity. At the end of a meeting, instead of having everyone post themselves, have people post each other. So perhaps Bill says, "I think Lila wasn't talking very much. I think she was pretty well tuned out". Maybe Lila says, "I think Maria was talking all the time". Maybe Maria says, "I didn't see Todd talking too much". Maybe Todd says, "I didn't see Bill talking too much either". You can see what we have here is a situation where one person is doing all the talking and no one else is even listening.
Again, it's a quick graphic representation of the current state versus what the ideal state is. What you do if you do it this way though is make sure you give the people time to negotiate. Maybe Maria says, "I don't think I was talking that much", and Todd agrees. So we decided to move her out a little bit.
Maybe Bill says, "I talked a few times", but Lila says, "No, you didn't", and Todd says, "No, you didn't" and so they decide to leave him here. What you're doing is fostering a team dialogue about how engaged everybody is so that you can help them move back to that optimal state where everyone is either talking or listening. It may not be perfect, but that's the kind of picture you're looking for.
Now if you do this with your team, do it frequently as first. Do it every meeting or two. Then as time goes on, you can be less and less frequent about it because people will get the idea. But you want to always make sure you keep coming back to it. This keeps people thinking about how engaged they are and keeps them focused on self‑correcting. It's a little thing you can do in your teams that can have a big impact.