Four Types of Meeting “Problem Children”

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I participate in a lot meetings and I run a lot of meetings. Meetings can be advantageous or a total waste of time. It really comes down to how a person leads a meeting. A successful meeting has two key elements: 1) it has an agenda with a start time and end time and 2) it has a purpose or expected outcome for the meeting. Our staff meetings are every Monday and they typically don’t last more than 10 minutes. The staff meeting is to inform and to highlight key things happening that week. I am amazed at the amount of time wasted in many meetings.

Remember, on occasion, there are people who will subvert your meetings or have an agenda that is contrary to the organization or the purpose of the meeting. Not everyone has a sinister plot to destroy a meeting, but problems develop with people who use the meeting to showcase their “expertise” or “knowledge.” Here are my four meeting “problem children:”

Ramblers. These meeting “problem children have not organized their thoughts and love to conduct a stream of consciousness style of meeting. They start down one path and pivot and go another direction and, when they finish talking, you don’t know if they are in favor of or are opposed to the idea being discussed. As a leader of a meeting you can politely bring them to their key point and close their monologue.

Dominators. It is not uncommon to have one or two people who will try to dominate a meeting. They are quick to voice their thoughts about everybody else’s ideas. They have strong personalities and can easily take charge of a meeting. The best way to handle a dominator is to solicit thoughts and ideas from everybody in the room and to move the conversation around to other people. You can say, “I haven’t heard from Oscar or Blanca and I would like to hear their ideas.”

Interrupters. Interrupters can quickly damage a meeting and the flow of thoughts and ideas because they don’t allow anyone to finish their sentence or idea. They are quick to interrupt and to interject their own thoughts. Most interrupters don’t realize how rude their behavior is or how it comes across to the entire group. The person leading the meeting can and should control an interrupter by stopping them and saying, “I would like Brian to finish his thoughts,” or “I want you to hold that thought until there has been a chance for everyone to say something.”

Plotters. The most dangerous kind of meeting “problem child” is the plotter. They secretly and behind the scenes work to make sure whatever is being planned or developed fails. This is wrong on so many levels, bu if you have a “plotter” there are some things you can do. Meet with the person before the meeting to identify key issues or concerns and address them before the meeting. Make sure you give plotters an opportunity to speak their mind during the meeting; make sure there are no “hallway meetings” between the plotter and select members of the meeting, without everyone present. When you lead a meeting with a plotter in the room, you have to force honesty and transparency.

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As Featured in the Monitor August 20, 2017