Keeping a meeting on-track and productive can be tough when you have some difficult personalities in attendance. While it is rare that people set out to deliberately sabotage a meeting, certain personality traits can derail an otherwise worthwhile and productive encounter. Facilitating meetings with the following personalities can be challenging, but here’s what you can do about them.

Dysfunctional Meetings

The Rambler

Meandering, roundabout and sometimes totally irrelevant ramblings from a participant can seriously alter the course of a meeting as well as exasperate other participants. Ramblers not only extend the length of a meeting, but they can also completely veer off the agenda and, therefore, disrupt the entire session.

Have the agenda for the meeting with the topics to be covered clearly displayed on a whiteboard in the meeting room. When a rambler goes off on a tangent, call their attention back to the topics on hand. If they raise a valid, off-topic point, note it prominently elsewhere and go back to it after the meeting. Meanwhile, keep the discussion solidly on the meeting agenda.

You can also inform everyone at the beginning of the meeting that they have a limited time (three to five minutes) to make their point or present their ideas. Assign a time keeper to make sure all participants adhere to the time limit.

The Multi-Tasker

Cell phones, tablets and reading materials can prove to be distractions during an important meeting. Your participants may be physically present, but their minds are elsewhere, which means they are not engaged and invested in the matters being discussed.

Tell your participants to leave all possible distractions (electronic or otherwise) at their desks. Limit the meeting to a reasonable length (one hour) so they will not be unreachable for a significant amount of time. Let them know this prior to the meeting so they can arrange for someone to cover their calls while they’re at the meeting.

The Domineering Personality

Similar to the rambler but with a more forceful personality, the dominator usually comes to a meeting with his or her own agenda that is usually quite apart from the group agenda. They are prepared to defend their point of view at all costs even if it involves bullying or intimidating other participants.

Interrupt them early in their discourse. Waiting until they exhaust their opinions may take too long, and by that time, your meeting will have been derailed. Acknowledge the point they are making, but make it clear that it is important to hear from other participants and quickly move on to another person.

You can also take them aside and validate the points they feel very strongly about by arranging to concentrate more on those points at another meeting.

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