Meeting Anxiety: 5 Tips for Team Leaders
Understanding and addressing the roots of this anxiety can transform meetings from stress-inducing to productive, engaging sessions that create value for everyone. Below, Onebright outlines five tips to foster psychological safety in team meetings, whether online or face-to-face CBT therapy.
1. Encourage Openness and Normalise Vulnerability
Lead by example by bringing your challenges and uncertainties to the call. Open the conversation with your challenge and highlight why the strengths of your team members can play a role in solving these problems.
This sets the tone for a non-judgmental atmosphere where team members feel safe expressing their thoughts and feelings without fear of being wrong or not qualified enough to contribute.
2. Set Clear Objectives and Agendas
Unclear objectives and vague meeting agendas can leave employees feeling lost and anxious. Therefore, as a team leader, it’s important to provide your team with a clear understanding of the meeting’s purpose, goals, and expected outcomes. One way to achieve this is by sharing the agenda in advance.
Not every employee will need time to prepare, but when engagement is low in meetings, you might need to allow more time for team members to build up confidence and research their points in-depth to communicate them more confidently.
3. Foster a Safe and Inclusive Environment
Practise active listening and acknowledge your employees’ ideas and suggestions. Active listening is crucial for any manager, especially when aiming to build psychological safety in team meetings. It goes beyond just hearing what team members say; it’s about fully engaging with them to understand their perspective and make them feel heard and valued.
Show empathy in your responses. Acknowledge their feelings and viewpoints, even if they differ from your own. This doesn’t mean you have to agree, but validating their experience is important.
4. Recognise and Celebrate Achievements
Recognising and celebrating individual and team accomplishments can significantly impact employee morale and engagement. Setting aside time during meetings to acknowledge and appreciate your team member’s hard work and highlight their contributions and successes is a good idea.
Doing so creates an environment that encourages employees to participate actively, knowing their efforts are valued.
5. Encourage mindfulness
Someone struggling with meeting anxiety may find themselves overly focused on others’ reactions instead of being present. This is where fostering a non-competitive atmosphere can be supportive and nurture more constructive and collaborative conversations.
Encourage team members to build on each other’s ideas and emphasise collective problem-solving and innovation. This can reduce the pressure to “perform” and shift focus to collective growth and learning.
How to calm nerves ahead of a work meeting
Team leaders can help individuals by offering support and suggesting different ways to calm anxiety, such as:
Before a meeting: Splash warm water on your face, take deep breaths, or reach out to a supportive friend or family member to relax.
During a meeting: Focus on your body posture, sit comfortably, and keep a stress-relief item nearby.
After a meeting: Use cognitive reframing techniques such as CBT to challenge negative thoughts and replace them with realistic perspectives. These strategies soothe your nervous system and help you regain focus on meeting topics.
Creating an open and supportive culture can help alleviate meeting anxiety among team members. Onebright offers mental health training with practical techniques that leaders can use to address and understand the issue of meeting anxiety.