Can You Play Football With A Cast On Your Hand Managing the Meeting From Hell! Facilitation Techniques to Manage Three Dysfunctional Personalities

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Managing the Meeting From Hell! Facilitation Techniques to Manage Three Dysfunctional Personalities

Sherry couldn’t stop thinking about her last team meeting as she walked down the hall to her office. Closing the door to her office behind her, she let out an exasperated cry and reached for something, the knock! Her team was driving her absolutely crazy and she channeled Scarlett O’Hara as she proclaimed: “I will never lead a meeting like that again!” In a nutshell, his problem boiled down to three really difficult personalities that kept reoccurring on his team. These personalities were in fact a cancer that not only infected the team and its results, but also spread throughout the group and infected the other team members.

Sherry needs an antidote… now!

Here’s a little help for Sherry…and you! Let’s explore these common dysfunctional personalities and how to deal with them effectively.

– The dominator

we have all experienced “the dominator” one way or another. Some people tend to dominate the discussion simply because they are excited and overzealous. These can actually be valuable team members if we can find appropriate approaches to harnessing and managing all that positive energy. Unfortunately, most of us are more familiar with the other type of dominator: the overly aggressive and intimidating personality who stomps on the comments of others and may try to hijack the meeting entirely! Sometimes these dominators are too negative (“That will never work here!”), and other times they just don’t let anyone else say a word. In any case, dominators can certainly damage not only the effectiveness of the meeting but also the morale of the team.

Techniques to effectively handle the dominator…

– Thank the dominator for his comments and ask for the opinion of others (eg. “Steven, that’s an interesting idea. Let’s see if others have suggestions as well.”) §

– Reiterate the dominator’s comment, write it visibly for everyone to see, and then ask for other ideas to complete the list. (e.g “Steven, it sounds like you’re recommending that we use these three vendors as our short list… is that correct? That’s a great suggestion. Let’s compile a list of several suggestions, then discuss them all. We’ll list your suggestion as “A” on the list. I’d like at least three more suggestions from the team. What do others think?”)

– Instead of having the group respond verbally to a problem, ask them to take 2 minutes to write down their idea, problem or recommendations in a post. Then ask each person to share a comment they have written.

– Suggest to the group that they use the free-for-all technique (go around the room asking each person to share a comment) and start at the opposite end of the table from the dominator (eg. “This is such an important topic that I want to make sure I’m getting everyone’s ideas. Let’s do a quick round robin starting with Jill…”)

– Call some people you haven’t heard from (eg. “Michael, what are your thoughts on this topic?”)

– Take a break and request support from the dominator offline (“Steven, you’ve brought up several key points. I’m hoping some of the other team members will join in the discussion to hear their ideas as well. Some of the group aren’t as assertive, but I want to be sure we hear from them.”

– Divide the group into pairs or triads and allow them to discuss a topic in those smaller groups before starting a large group discussion

– Reach an agreement with your team to use a physical object (for example, a soccer sponge) to balance the discussion. The person holding the soccer ball has the floor and must pass it to another person once they have made their point.

– The multitasker

Increasingly, we see more and more multitasking in our meetings. Aptly named, they are those whose attention constantly moves between the leader of the meeting and any number of other tempting distractions (eg PDA, laptop, reading material, etc.). In fact, the multitasker is physically present but mentally elsewhere.

Techniques to effectively manage the MultiTasker…

– Bring the topic up to the group during the first few meetings and decide as a group how you want to handle technological distractions… options may include

– Use a “technology drop box” at the front of the meeting room and agree to leave it before the start of the meeting

– Limit meeting time to one hour to ensure participants are not away for long

– Agree technological breaks of 15 minutes every hour

– Participants bring a friend to “cover” them in case they have to go out for a call.

– Use facilitation techniques that keep participants actively engaged

– All against all

– Active interrogation

– Affinity diagramming

– Work in subteams.

– Voting points

– Use a circular or U-shaped room setup that allows you to easily walk around (and close to) multiple participants fairly easily

– Agree on a light punishment for texting, emailing, etc. during the meeting…one group used a PDA jar and any offender had to put in $5 per violation. (The money was later used for team lunches)

– The hiker

The hiker can seriously derail a meeting with his torturous, drawn-out, and rambling comments. Often the ramblings stray into areas that bear little resemblance to the topic at hand. The rambler can not only significantly extend the duration of a meeting, but also completely alter the content of the meeting, thus minimizing the team’s efficiency. Y effectiveness.

Techniques to effectively manage the Rambler…

– Have a printed agenda (on a flipchart or whiteboard) in the room. When the conversation strays from the topic, stand up and point to the specific item on the agenda to refocus the group.

– Include times for each section of the agenda so that you can more easily focus the group on the time allotted for each discussion point. Possibly ask someone on the team to provide a 5-minute warning before the scheduled end time for each section of the agenda.

– Simply raise your hand and interrupt the discussion to ask if the conversation is on topic and if it helps the group achieve their goal for the meeting. (“Guys, let me jump in for a moment to ask if the vendor discussion is relevant to this particular section of the agenda?”

– Introduce Parking Lot at the beginning of the meeting and announce that you will interrupt the discussion to place any off-topic talking points in the parking lot to help keep the group on track. (“Jill, I realize you’re very concerned about the inventory control issue, but I’m wondering if we should try to figure that out now or could we put it in the parking lot?”) Review all parking lot items at the end of the meeting and assign action items for each one.

– Assign someone from the team to act as “robo police” (wear a badge if applicable). This person is responsible for raising their hand whenever the discussion strays from the topic.

– Consider using the ELMO technique. ELMO = “Everyone, let’s move on!” Whenever someone in the group feels that the group is wandering too much, they are expected to pick up the ELMO doll (in the center of the table).

Copyright 2009 Matters of Professionalism, Inc.

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