How To Avoid The ‘Halo Effect’ In Meetings?

“The halo effect in groups is evident in the standard practice observed in meetings which gives too much weight to the opinions of those who speak early and assertively, causing the others to line up behind them” says Daniel Kahneman. I couldn’t agree more.

I often find during meetings the discussions often veer towards the thoughts and opinions expressed by people who are first off the block or are vocal to the point of being domineering. Especially so when such opinions come from people who lead the meeting are in a position of power in relation to the others. This gets confirmed by my observations from the ‘mountain survival’ activity which we facilitate in both our team and leadership programs; where a group is required in consensus to rank in order of importance twelve items which will help them survive.

Often valuable information from the less vocal and passive members is missed by the whole group as the meeting gets dominated by those who are vocal leading to their failure.

However, there are teams which succeed or come close to expected outcomes! This happens when you help the team decorrelate errors of judgment arising from the ‘halo effect’. We ask each team member to rank the items in the order they feel is important for their survival and then each one is provided with full opportunity to explain the rationale behind their individual judgments. As in the book ‘wisdom of crowds’, individuals tend to do very poorly, but pools of individual judgments do remarkably well. When we look at individual ranking sheets they seem to be way off the mark but the average of all rankings comes closer to the solution. The teams which follow this method almost always have the survival advantage.

How can we then reduce the negative impact of the ‘halo effect’ in our meetings?

We use a simple rule while we facilitate organizational leadership meetings (especially when we work with the executive on Goals, Objectives and Key Results). Before any issue is discussed, all members of the team should be asked to write a very brief summary of their position. We provide them with post-it pads and ask them to put all their thoughts and in complete silence. This procedure makes good use of bringing the value of the diversity of knowledge and opinions in the group. It cuts the individual bias from influencing the course of discussions leading to productive outcome.

You must however be willing to invest time in such a process which most teams sadly don’t commit to.

Would you have any more ideas on reducing the ‘halo effect’ from your meetings?

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