Despite all the best practices to ensure a leader is prepared for his or her meeting, there are times when a meeting will become unproductive. The book outlines scenarios where a meeting could go wrong and suggests how leaders can anticipate and hopefully remedy them before all is lost.
What to do if …
… participants arrive late or leave early:
*Consistently begin and end meetings on time so people learn to respect the time limits.
*Give participants jobs to do during the session so they have a sense of responsibility to the meeting.
*Preempt early departures by asking if everyone can stay until the designated time.
*Ask privately why that participant missed a portion of the meeting and suggest ways to help if the problem is chronic.
… one participant dominates the discussion:
*Walk closer to the person to draw the group’s attention to the leader and away from the speaker.
*Thank that individual for his or her input and call on someone else.
*Encourage that person to let others speak for themselves if he or she is inclined to finish everyone’s sentences.
*Ask the group to change roles and encourage the shy group members to speak up.
*Ask the chronic interrupters to write down their thoughts and wait until there is a pause in the conversation before contributing their ideas.
… the group repeats points already made:
*Keep track of ideas on a whiteboard.
*Show signs of active listening to confirm understanding of the idea.
*Acknowledge that it is an important point for the group and ask for other suggestions.
… participants disturb the meeting:
- Explain the ground rules of expected behavior at the beginning.
- Make fresh connections to get the participant on track.
- Call for a break so group members can move around and regain focus.
… the group gets stuck or confused:
*Ask the group if there is something they do not understand.
*Remind the group of the agenda items.
*Suggest a short break during complicated topics so people have time to ruminate.
*Remove the item from the agenda if it truly fails.
… the group falls silent:
*Allow silence if it appears that the group needs time to reflect on an idea.
*Ask if anyone needs clarification.
*Suggest a short break to help individuals refocus.
*Reschedule the meeting if the group seems to need more time to consider the agenda items.
… there is an elephant in the room:
*Raise the issue immediately in order to start the conversation. Reassure the group that each person’s opinion is valid and important to leadership.
*Encourage members to keep their comments positive and constructive.
*Focus on the substance of the idea or opinion, not the personal style, status, or relationship.
*Evaluate every idea so no one feels judged too quickly or not listened to fully.
By internalizing these best practices and suggestions, any leader can learn how to run an effective meeting.