Who’s in the room today? Do I really have to go in?
It’s the weekly meeting. You’re the manager. You’d rather be tucked up at your desk with a nice latte and the paper, but you know you have to do it. Who’s in the room? There are 6 or 8 people, but any of 48 different personalities depending on the weather, the football results, how well the kids slept and a thousand other reasons. Your challenge is always to be ready for whatever or whoever you’re confronted with. Is it Dr Jeckyll or Mr Hyde today?
In a meeting, most people display some pretty consistent behaviors that may well reflect their inherent personalities as well as their current environmental stimuli. People are either positive, neutral, or dare I say it, negative (you can bet their latte was half empty before they even took their first sip).
In his blog ‘Recognising and Effectively Dealing with Different Personality Types’, David Rose breaks down these personality types into further sub-categories. I thought I would present these in my style and based on my countless hours in meetings over the last few decades (ouch!). Great meetings are a key component of employee engagement, my passion.
In my meeting today there are three teams
On the Positive team there is:
Positive Percy who can smile underwater (he’s a great asset). He is a catalyst for action, can have great creative ideas or provide the spark required for others to shine. People like Percy interact and contribute willingly. You can garner support from these people to drive agendas. A pat on the back and recognition goes a long way with Percy.
There is supportive Sam who will find the positive side in all circumstances, but may battle with providing feedback particularly if it might be construed as negative or challenging. People like Sam keep things positive, but I have to give him a prod to get him to make a contribution.
Then there is Patricia the peacemaker. Thank goodness for Patricia, a God send who leaps in and mediates a ceasefire just when casualties are becoming inevitable. People like Patricia are operating as facilitators, keeping things light, seeking clarity, and diffusing tension. Get them involved to keep the playground peaceful from the outset.
On the neutral team there is:
Charlie the chatterbox, will he ever shut up? If you could keep him on track and get him to share some of the oxygen in the room, he could add plenty of value. He knows his stuff, but he just can’t stay on topic for 5 minutes. Either you or your facilitators (peacemakers) need to keep him in check. You’ll need to be subtle but obvious in your gentle guidance or, all else failing, a quiet word outside the meeting about using his enthusiasm to help draw out and involve others may work.
Nothing to write about these people, they say nothing (not true). Silent Sue sits steady and still. She lacks confidence and prefers to go unnoticed if she can. You may need to directly ask these people questions to elicit their feedback, ideas and opinions. In all likelihood she is probably sitting on a gold mine of contribution that just needs to be extracted gently. You might like to read my last post Engaging Introverts and consider your approach here. Give them notice and time to consider topics before you pounce on them unexpectedly in a meeting. (Note: Sue’s Silence doesn’t necessarily mean she is an introvert.)
Neville the know it all has been doing this for 20 years and he is telling us all, “this is the way you do it, and what you’ve done, well, I already did it last week”. Keep your frustration at bay here. Neville won’t respond well if feels he is under fire since his behavior may already stem from insecurity. Calm interventions, “thankyou for your contribution”, and a simple, “I’d just like to bring us back to the main topic” or “ I am conscious of time”, are the best ways to stem the flow of his personal commendations.
On the negative team there is:
Ian the interrupter is… just a minute, Ian is just making a point… is always making another point, right in the middle of when someone else is. Look out, now everyone else is starting to interrupt. He’s started a trend. A very disruptive trend. It’s time for a diplomatic challenge, perhaps your peacemaker may help this process. Facilitation 101 is required. “Sorry to interrupt you Ian”, I just want to bring it back to Mary. I do want to hear your point. Can we just park that for a moment and come back to it, time permitting.”
Just got the meeting back on track with a great point from Percy when Yassa the yes but found something he doesn’t agree with. In fact we haven’t found anything he does agree with in the whole meeting. No doubt he thinks he is adding value by just letting us know, just being the devils advocate (working overtime). Let’s deal with this quickly. “Yassa, can you just provide some further clarity on why you disagree? Yassa what alternative would you suggest?” In time Yassa will think carefully before he starts tugging on the rug the speaker is standing on.
We are just back on track when Dorothy the dominator storms in to the conversation. Larger than life and resplendent with her ego on display like her best Sunday brooch, she is picking up on someones point, confident that we are all hanging on her every word, her pearls of wisdom. You’re trying to bring the meeting back on track, but Dorothy is up to the challenge rising to the occasion in front of her peers and won’t be halted. The best way to deal with Dorothy is to keep it official. “We need to bring this back to the topic, we have tight time constraints”. “I am interested in your point, can you give us some quick clarification and suggest a viable alternative?”
Yep, it’s exhausting. You can miss the whole meeting just managing the meeting.
As a manager, you are really a facilitator. It’s your role to determine how to get the most out of a meeting. A lot of that comes down to the process and procedures. But a huge determinant of the success of the meeting is to know who’s in the room and to not only be able to facilitate your interactions with those individuals, but to facilitate their interactions with others and the group.
It’s important to prepare. If it’s a regular meeting with the team, you might consider thinking how each of the participants displays one or more of the personality traits described above and plan your responses to likely scenarios. A little rehearsal never hurts. I often rehearse in my mind how I will respond to scenarios that I anticipate. Most importantly, take a strong, appropriately sensitive and consistent approach. If you set the expectation, then many of the disruptive behaviours can be short circuited whilst promoting the positive and productive behaviours. You can establish a productive meeting culture.
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