Remember ball tossing in the school playground? Were you ever the one who stood there like a dork as the ball was passed from hand to hand, yet never yours? Or were you the leader of the pack who, without saying a word, had everyone in sync and decided who would or would not be left out?
Certainly that is a far cry from being an entrepreneur and managing people constructively in your adult life. Or is it so far away from the way you treat employees and customers? Sure, we all have our favorites. The question is - does everyone have to know who they are? Are they the ones who always catch the ball? And what happens when you leave out those who may be shy or reticent to play the way you think they should?
Of course, there is the final option to fire the less spectacular players. Yet, the cost of replacement is huge in ramp up time and lost productivity. Maybe the newest research in neuroscience can help you find a better way to help employees who need to be part of the ball throwing and catching game at work.
Naomi Eisenberger, a brain researcher at the University of California at Los Angeles has shown through some ball throwing exercises that those who are excluded show activity in the region of the brain that indicates pain involvement. Being excluded causes pain. Anyone who has been in that unpleasant situation knows that is the case. No, it may not be the kind of pain that you would scream an "OMG, that hurts" about. It is more like a feeling of suffering and anguish.
Now this type of research is showing that the human brain is a social organ and is profoundly shaped by social interaction. As a leader and business owner, this is vital information that can give you clues as to why there is so much upset about being excluded. IT HURTS!
Teach your employees about the brain in a clear and simple way, or just give them a copy of this article. It is your responsibility as a leader to train all your employees in best practices. Inclusion rather than exclusion is a must. Here is what to do:
• Always make sure that those who need to be at a meeting are invited on the same email with date, time and place clearly stated. Make sure they are asked to respond with a response date in a clear place. If they do not, either you or someone you appoint needs to find out why they have not responded.
• Have information available to hand out to all participants and better yet, if not too unwieldy, have their names printed on the info packets when they come in
• Make sure everyone participates in the meeting. If someone is quiet, ask them an open-ended question as a way to bring them into the team. Don't let anyone just sit and not speak. Make that a rule at all meetings.
The best way to keep continued inclusion is to start each meeting with a process we call "Getting Current". It takes but a few minutes and is a fool proof way to have all hands on deck for the rest of the meeting. Have each person simply offer a few sentences about where they are in life. No long treatise, merely something along the lines of having seen a good movie, or enjoying the success or sadness of a favorite sports team winning or losing. It could be about a child home with a cold or a relative coming to stay. It is not so much about the specifics of what is said, it is more about creating an environment of inclusion. Remember, the more you include your employees, the less chance there is for that awful feeling of being the one who never gets the ball tossed to them, feeling excluded and then spending time stuffing down the pain, sucking it up and not being in the loop of creative and productive thinking.