How to Deal With Personalities in Meetings

As The Leader, Your Responsibility Is To Get Everyone To Focus On The Mission.

It does not take long for people to realize that meetings are a part of every organization. Whether they are virtual, telephonic, or in-person, meetings are one of the key tools to help organizations achieve the outcomes they are responsible for. From my experiences of attending meetings, analyzing meetings, and coaching meeting leaders, I have come to the realization that there are several types of personalities that show up in pretty much all meetings.

As I describe these personalities, I am sure you will have faces come to mind, based on your experiences. Some can be quite entertaining, but if you are the leader of meetings, you are accountable for making all those personalities come together in a productive and efficient manner. When it comes to managing meetings and participants, there is no one size fits all strategy. Here are some of the personalities and tips on how to deal with them effectively.

The latecomer. It never fails. There is always at least one person who is habitually late to meetings. Of course, events happen to us all that make us tardy now and then. That is understandable. Someone who is late consistently is a different matter altogether. When you see it happening over and over, it is time to talk to the person one-on-one. Explain to them specifically what you have noticed, the impact on you and the meeting, and what you would like to see in the future. If that does not work, then you have more serious performance issue. A tip that applies whenever someone is late is DO NOT go back over items already covered to bring them up to speed. That is not fair to everyone that was on time.

The talker. We all know about the person who does not seem to even take a breath when they talk. We may miss the quality of what they are saying because the quantity of words overwhelms us. They have something to say about every topic on the agenda and are very quick to take the whole discussion down off-topic rabbit holes. As the leader, you must first set guidelines for the meeting that include a time limit for comments. Habitual talkers will probably not pay attention to the guidelines, anyway. Try to call on individuals for input on topics instead of leaving it open-ended for comments. If the talker does not get the message, talk to them about the impact of their behavior and how it could be different.

The jokester. Everyone likes to laugh. Work and life in general are serious enough. A bit of levity in meetings, when appropriate, is welcome by most people in meetings. When the jokester goes overboard either with the type of humor they are using or the amount of humor starts to derail the meeting, it is time for the leader to step in. If you continually laugh at the jokester’s humor and behavior, it will be harder to get it to stop. Try to control yourself when the jokester acts up. Like most situations, if the jokester starts to dominate too much, it is time for a face-to-face discussion.

The naysayer. It is almost a constant in meetings that there will be at least one person who finds all the reasons why something will not work. They are very skilled at saying “it will never work,” “we can’t get the budget,” “we tried that before,” etc. Left unchecked these people can suck the left and energy out of any meeting they attend and de-motivate others to attend. When you start the meeting, be specific about how the group should handle negative comments. Enlist the help of other meeting attendees. The majority of them will not want naysayers to have their way in the meeting. If the naysayer continues to contribute more negative than positive, it may be time to stop inviting them.

The brown noser. We have all seem them. The people that seem to agree with everything the boss has to say. It does not take long for everyone to identify these people and discount them as someone who has an agenda outside of productively contributing to the meeting. If everyone agrees with the boss, there is only a need for one person. Healthy differences of opinion are healthy in meetings. The leader must encourage different thoughts and not encourage mirroring.

Diversity in personalities and opinions make meetings productive. When certain personalities start detracting from the meeting’s purposes the leader must handle it quickly and effectively. The other members of the meeting will appreciate it and the leader’s credibility will be enhanced.

Steve Schumacher is a management consultant, trainer and public speaker with more than 25 years of experience in numerous industries throughout North America, including aggregates operations. He can be reached at [email protected].

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