Meeting Manners


Having sat in innumerable meetings of all types, from the simple one topic in and out types of gatherings to the hour's long complex multi faceted ones I have compiled a list of the good and the bad characteristics of meeting participants.

There is a reason that we meet - for clarity of purpose, to solve problems, plan strategy or to discuss company, department or individual goals and performance. Meetings are called to help a plan move forward, to review current situations, identify tasks and responsibilities or just to get everyone on the same page to name just a few. The true goal of a meeting is to arrive at a collective actionable result.

You have probably sat in many such meetings and can count on the fingers of one hand (ok, maybe both) the meetings that you left saying "that was a good meeting". The content of a meeting aside, it is the people around the table that have a huge effect on the outcome. Individuals come to the table with their own human characteristics, problems, skills set, insecurities and egos. Here is where the breakdown can occur. I am not being a Pollyanna, but in the perfect world no one would do or say anything in a meeting that detracted from getting to the best result.

I don't question peoples' skill sets or professionalism because if I did I would be telling you that anyone not in possession of such should not be allowed to attend any meeting whatsoever. I am recognizing the traits that are at odds in almost ever meeting.

Here are my top 10 good vs. bad characteristics in a meeting

Respectful vs Accusatory
Collaborative vs Contentious
Constructive vs Territorial
Flexible vs Stubborn
Looking for alternatives vs Protecting your opinion
Open vs Ego driven
Professional vs Personal
Courteous vs Short
Gentle vs Strident
Problem Solving vs Fault seeking

I do know that your list will be different than mine and that is okay. It is about understanding the difference between the good and bad that folks can bring into a meeting.

If you are cast in the role of leading a meeting, facilitating the conversations, keeping the content on topic and moving forward you will need to identify who is bringing what.
The faster you can do that the quicker you can produce a quality result. You will know the people with an agenda, the people with big egos, the people who can only see an issue one way and all the other traits.

The more you can control the interactions the better everyone at the table and the result will be.

I have found that being strong, sometimes pointed or direct without hitting people over the head calms the waters and slows a run away train. It has to be made clear where the lines are and the types of input that will be allowed. Caution needs to be exercised here or else a valued member may shut down and not participate. Everyone at the table belongs at the table for a reason and they must be a part of the action. A shut down leaves a hole in the discussions and also creates a very unhappy camper. Make that camper unhappy too often and they will be out the door, not only from the meeting but from the company.

When you can influence the give and take of those around the table and help them see that no one will get everything they hope for out of the meeting the better. The more the personalities, quirks or counterproductive traits are left at the door the easier it will be to produce something of value.

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