Improved Leadership. Competitive Advantage.

We are ‘pulling the thread’ from the last entry of healthy intellectual challenge directly into this column. The best way to assess whether disagreement leads to disrespect, or whether leaders and individual contributors can engage in productive—not personal—intellectual challenge, is to track meetings.

At ELP, we’ve created a proprietary meeting scorecard that tracks the presence of strong teamwork, collaborative problem solving, and a culture of responsible and thorough questioning. Of course, you’ll have to call us to get more, but we’ll pull the curtain back for a moment.

To begin, keep your ear out for employee voice. Empirical research confirms that employees and leaders who feel they have a voice are more engaged, less likely to quit, and report higher levels of job satisfaction. To be sure, there are limits and boundaries to employee voice. In general, at this meeting, did you observe leaders, managers, and individual contributors offering expertise and informing the conversation? Did members of the team listen and were they respectful? The opposite of this is when one individual owns the room. Here, a single individual dominates, asks all the questions, and commandeers the meeting. Another way to examine the presence or absence of this phenomenon is to track the behaviors and communicative patterns when the leader is not in the room. Are people more relaxed and involved or engaged?

Next, examine and track the meeting for appropriate challenge. Were assumptions called into question? Did people push back at ideas without attacking the individual? Unfortunately, the absence of challenge is groupthink or the spiral of silence. Under the phenomenon of groupthink, mental models morph into one—alternatives are ignored or downright flouted. The spiral of silence is equally damaging. Here, people are afraid to push back and silence is perceived as collective agreement. If you are tracking a meeting using this metric and detect zero challenge to a complex solution, proposal, or recommendation, there’s a problem—a big one.

Lastly, and this may seem a touch outta place here, but were people knowledgeable and prepared for the meeting? Return for a moment to Scalia and Ginsberg. Without question, both were highly knowledgeable and came prepared. It is almost incomprehensible to believe that these two individuals ever ‘shot from the hip.’ Healthy challenge can only exist when we have trust and faith that the other person is informed in their thoughts and mental models. The minute we perceive the person as ill equipped or misinformed, there can be no healthy challenge. During the first 3 minutes of almost any meeting, we can detect those that’ve prepared and those who didn’t. To challenge is to prepare.

To learn more on how to blend teamwork, intellectual curiosity, respectful challenge, and accountability into a single meeting event, you must reach out to Robin Bichy and get our proprietary ELP Meeting Scorecard. Reach her at