A droning speaker, a dull PowerPoint presentation and a pot of stale coffee. Who doesn’t love meetings? OK, who does love them?
Many people have joined the anti-meeting camp, with 47 percent of the employees surveyed in 2012 by Salary.com saying meetings are their biggest time suck at work.
Poorly run meetings receive a bad rap. But a good session increases productivity and facilitates collaboration among team members. The key difference between a great meeting and an epic waste of time? The participants.
The following are three personalities you will want at every meeting as they naturally play off one another’s strengths and keep their colleagues on task:
The leader sets the tone and agenda for the meeting and ensures that everyone contributes. She knows how to delegate and listen and then acts swiftly to mediate conflicts.
A team player would ideally be one among many such players at the meeting. But often individuals attend meetings with their own agendas. At least one team player is useful for bringing energy and enthusiasm to the group. This person builds momentum by jumping on assignments and tackling conflicts as they arise.
The creative mind type is the idea person, offering fresh ideas and solutions and working well with the team player to bring concepts to fruition.
In contrast, the meeting would be better off without the following four types in the conference room:
The negative Nancy is someone whose favorite phrase is “this will never work.” Being realistic is one thing but this person rarely has something useful to contribute.
The unprepared one asks questions that make it clear that he hasn’t prepared. He can’t offer an educated opinion and wastes everyone’s time gathering information he should have collected beforehand.
The know-it-all thinks she’s at a meeting of one, with everyone else serving as her audience. She provides lengthy remarks on every point, drowning out others’ opinions.
The quiet one might have great ideas, but never voices them. This isn’t someone who is desirable to have at a brainstorming session or a planning meeting.
When you bring several diverse personalities together, they’re bound to disagree occasionally. Conflict can be a great catalyst for progress, but interpersonal clashes aren’t likely to lead to your company’s next big idea. These conflicts almost guarantee an off-topic meeting and provide fodder for office gossip.
During a meeting I attended at my company, Confirm BioSciences, a conflict broke out between a team player and a technical person over a product’s features. Rather than let the battle play out, the leader asked everyone to consider the issue without taking sides and asked those in conflict to re-examine the project’s goal and how it fit with the company’s mission.
The team player articulated the problem and the creative mind jumped in to work with the technical person to determine how the group could hit the product’s specifications. What could have been an awkward and unproductive meeting turned into an opportunity to refocus on the goal. This was a best-case scenario.
To avoid nasty conflicts, structure your meetings around 30-minute time limits. There’s little room for dueling personalities when you’re facing a hard deadline.
If conflicts do flare, redirect the conversation so the meeting can end on time. And to meet this goal, establish a “no-criticism zone” and encourage team members to embrace different views. My company has a policy that everyone’s input is heard and considered: Diversity in ideas is a good type of conflict. But personal attacks are forbidden. This establishes a respectful tone and reduces unhelpful tension.
Finally, ask members of your team to keep personal differences outside. No company has a completely harmonious team, but personal clashes shouldn’t disrupt a meeting. If a personal problem surfaces, gently remind those involved to deal with it when the meeting has adjourned.
The right people can make or break your meetings. Gather the right team and you’ll feed off one another’s energy and move the company forward together. That doesn’t mean you’ll never argue, but the right group will navigate the conflict respectfully and stay focused on what’s best for the company.