Schlechty's levels of engagement were designed for a pre-pandemic classroom but I think they also apply to the world of work. How many times have you been in a meeting checking Twitter (retreatism) because you have no interest in what's going on or you don't even know why you were invited in the first place? How many times did you skip a meeting altogether or find ways to argue with the organizer because you just knew it was a waste of your time (rebellion)? How many times have you walked away feeling like, "Wow! That was so productive and I got so much out of it!" (engagement).
What can we do to invite folks to be more engaged?
Set the purpose
In the invite or email, include a bit about why you invited the folks you did and that the goal for the meeting. One way to ensure people at least know why they're there is to explicitly state it and not just assume they know. Also, explicitly call out the goal or objective of the meeting.
I invited the folks from the finance department because we'll be making a decision between these two systems and we'll need to purchase it. I'd like your input to know what kind of budget we'll be working with. The goal of this series of three meetings is to gather information to make a decision about which system to purchase.
Shared visual notes
Creating a space where everyone can contribute their thoughts is helpful for participation and engagement. This can be done with a tool like Padlet, Lucidchart, or Miro. Providing an outlet for the input people receive as they sit through a meeting allows them to be occupied, gives space to process, and makes it so they can capitalize on the insights of others and make connections.
Avoid control & compliance and opt for Drive
Do NOT force people to participate. Do NOT call them out for being quiet or cold call - a technique where you choose a random person, or worse, a person who you believe isn't engaged and call on them. This is certain to drive people further from your goal. Instead, remember Daniel Pink's work on what drives people - autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Instead, invite them the share and authentically show that you value their perspective on the matter and give them an out as not everyone processes quickly and may need more time.
Stacey, I'd love to hear your thoughts on if this seems better than the current system. If you need time to process, I can follow up with you after this.
This could also be a place to use the shared note space. For the things you'd like input on, include the questions at the top and have them post their answers below. This also gives you an artifact to reflect and revisit with later.
Engaging with people authentically, over time, will build a safe environment for them to want to contribute. Through your actions, you'll demonstrate that you invite people to meetings thoughtfully because you want and value their participation, you have a clear purpose for gathering people together, and you'll offer them multiple ways to contribute and an out if they aren't ready in the moment. For that work, you'll see higher levels of engagement and less retreatism and rebellion.