The hatred for meetings is a universal phenomenon. In a survey of senior managers, 71% called meetings unproductive and inefficient, while 64% revealed that meetings come at the cost of deep thinking. And, it’s not just the employees who share these opinions. Many successful businesspersons hate meetings, the most famous of the lot being Mark Cuban and Elon Musk. Indeed, Musk went as far as calling them a “blight” on large companies.
But meetings are essential to the functioning of organizations – big or small. They cannot be eliminated.
So, how do you make your meetings more productive and efficient?
The first step is, of course, understanding why meetings fail to produce results. Some of the common reasons are:
- One person dominates the entire meeting
- Technology addicts who think of themselves as multi-taskers
- Introverts who never voice their ideas and opinions
- Daydreaming participants
In a nutshell, diverging personalities of the participants in a meeting can inadvertently sabotage it. Making matters worse, most business leaders lack the formal training to facilitate effective collaboration between people with different personalities.
Here’s are some recommendations to prevent personality differences from derailing your meetings:
The Domineering Personality
The dominator usually comes to a meeting with their own agenda that is generally quite apart from that of the group. They are prepared to defend their viewpoint 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 their points, but make it clear that it is crucial 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.
Cell phones, tablets, and reading materials can 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 before the meeting so they can arrange for someone to cover their calls while they’re at the meeting.
Introverts Who Don’t Voice Their Opinions
Meetings are productive when you gather ideas and leverage the expertise of all participants. That means giving each of them equal opportunities to provide their inputs. However, the charged atmosphere of most meetings may be too much for the shy. When pushed, they may just recite the opinions of the dominators.
One way of getting introverts to contribute effectively to the meetings is by asking all participants to prepare for the meetings in advance and share their thoughts, opinions, and ideas with you before the meeting via email. That way, you can ask each participant to expound on their original ideas and opinions; not simply recite what they hear in the meetings.
The rambler is a less forceful version of the dominator. Meandering, roundabout, and sometimes totally irrelevant ramblings from a participant can seriously alter the course of a meeting and exasperate other participants. Ramblers not only extend the length of a meeting but they can also completely veer off the agenda and 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 timekeeper to make sure all participants adhere to the time limit.
One of the tenets of effective leadership is to turn a group of conflicting personalities into a well-oiled machine. Our courses help you learn to communicate with different personalities, facilitate masterful meetings, and become an effective, facilitative leader.
Radically improve the quality and effectiveness of your meetings with purpose-built programs designed to turn you into a facilitative business leader.
Interested in learning more leadership techniques?
Check out our course, The Facilitative Leader