Managing Monsters in Meetings - Part 1, General Strategies for Unproductive BehaviorWritten by Steve Kaye
It happens easily. You're conducting a meeting and suddenly a small side meeting starts. Then someone introduces an unrelated issue. Someone else ridicules new issue. Everyone laughs, except person who mentioned idea. Then someone insults person who told joke. Two people stand up and walk out. Others complain that meeting is a waste of time.
Now, what do you do?
And how do you prevent this sort of thing from happening?
Or what could you have done to stop it once it started?
Here are basic strategies for dealing with unproductive behavior in meetings.
Respect other people. Always treat others with respect, even if they are doing things that seem wrong. Their "bad" behavior could be based on many things, such as a lack of skill, a misunderstanding, or a response to a threat. It could also be a simple mistake. Or maybe they're expressing an indirect warning, complaint, or cry of pain. If you respond with disrespect, such as with a counterattack, you will make a bad situation worse. They will either retreat, which means they stop contributing to your meeting, or they will retaliate, which can escalate to an argument that ruins your meeting.
Ask questions. Use questions to find out what is really happening. For example, when someone introduced a new issue, you could have responded by saying, "That sounds interesting, and I wonder how that relates to what we are working on." Notice that this is a neutral, gentle question. It is not a trick question like, "What are your trying to do, ruin my meeting?" and it is not a command like, "Hey, stick to topic." Both of these (hostile) responses put other person in an awkward position, which is a form of disrespect.
Managing Monsters in Meetings - Part 4, Quiet ParticipantsWritten by Steve Kaye
There are many reasons why someone would decline to participate during a meeting. While some of these may be valid, others may warrant intervention in order to hold an effective meeting.
Approach 1: Encourage participation
When you notice a quiet participant, ask for contributions by looking at person and saying:
"How do you feel about that, Chris?"
"What results do you expect from this, Pat?"
"Chris, how will this affect you?"
Sometimes a quiet participant will test environment with a tentative reply or a minor, safe point. Respond positively and with encouragement to any response that you receive. Then probe further to explore for more ideas.