10 Ways to Deal with Distracting Teammates
I wrote a post about standing out.
Fitting in makes you irrelevant.
Doug responded by leaving a comment explaining a team member who stands out in a disruptive way.
Doug wrote, “The problem now is the ideas and actions are so far off the basic needs of the organization they are not productive and are a distraction at almost every meeting… Any suggestions?”.
10 ways to deal with distracting teammates:
- Define purpose, goals, and objectives. What is the purpose of the meeting? What are the goals and results? Describe deliverables. “The purpose of this meeting is ….”
- Set goals and objectives together. You may opt for #1 or #2, depending on organizational culture. Be sure “Mrs. Disruptor” knows the goals.
- Invite team members to explain the purpose of the meeting in their own words. Use this strategy to test alignment. Be sure “Mr. Distraction” aligns with the purpose of the meeting, if not, he shouldn’t be in the meeting.
- Ask team members what they’d like to get out of the meeting.
- Invite the team to define success before offering suggestions on how to get there.
- Ask the disruptive team member what they want. “What are you trying to accomplish?”
- Tell the disruptive team member that their ideas are great, but they don’t apply to this situation. Leaders set boundaries and define success.
- Reassign or remove “Mr. Distraction.”
- Record the meeting and let “Miss Disruption” hear her own voice.
- Ask yourself if you’re missing something. Sometimes an irritating person is right.
Bonus: Use candor. After the meeting, say, “Your participation isn’t helping. What can we do about this?”
They say, “It’s all about talent.” But, it isn’t. It’s all about aligned talent. Misaligned talent drains, distracts, and disrupts.
Bonus material: How to fit in AND standout.
How might leaders deal with team members who are “off base?”
These are all excellent suggestions, Dan.
Love that you included #10.
Sometimes, it’s all about a clear understanding.
And sometimes, a clear understanding is really about perspective – from objectives to strategy to tactics to implementation “feet-on-the-ground” perspective.
If you invite a Sales rep into a Marketing strategy discussion, you will get what looks like distraction, for example.
Sometimes, Mr. Disruption is coming from a different perspective — one that you’ll need now and/or later.
Thanks Stephanie. Sometimes the person I KNOW is wrong ends up being right.
Another factor in this discussion is track record. Are they delivering great or mediocre results?
Love the idea about team members defining the purpose of the meeting and what they want accomplished by the end of the meeting. This creates
ownership and sets boundaries.
Thanks Ruth. Just things about the level of engagement when the team owns the meeting.
I absolutely agree Stephanie – we once were brought in for an intervention in a team that had a disrupter – it turned out he was right but the way he was communicating was the problem – once the team had tools for alignment and safe conversation they finally were able to hear his concern (which was based on customer feedback) and the problem was solved.
Thanks for adding your story Sharon. The way we work together impacts success.
I reckon disruptive team members have the potential to teach you more about yourself (and your ‘trigger points’) than the easy-going & pleasant ones. Diversity mindset! But can be a tad tiring … nice item, thanks
Thanks Nick. A look in the mirror hurts sometimes.
I really like 3 and 4, especially no. 4. Traveled too many miles and been in too many meetings only to ask myself the question; what was that all about and was it worth the effort, when none of our agenda was covered. When I attend a meeting, I fully expect something to happen for the better. A bull secession, should be left for the bull ring. If someone wants to test there ability of bobbing, weaving, hiding and running from the problem, and then the kill (end of the meeting), that would be the appropriate place, not a board meeting. Getting a prospective from number 4 will give a leader some idea as to what will be accomplished with his agenda, if anything at all.
Thanks Ron. You picked out one of my favorites. #3 … alignment is so powerful. Misalignment results in wasted time, resources, and energy. It’s so frustrating when smart people spend time pulling in different directions.
Where’s Doug!? I want to hear what he has to say about this blog post! If he doesn’t show up I’m calling out his absence as being disruptive.
I hit a point with some employees that always got off topic complaining about a past manager anytime we changed some sort of protocol he had at one time put into effect that I finally would have to take a moment to kindly remind the girls that I understood their complaints (although I wanted to add for the last thousands of times), but I really need everyone focusing on what I am about to say, it’s important. But of course going from sixth grade teacher to manager, it just came natural to redirect.
Thanks Shop. Successful leaders monitor energy and point teams in directions that create positive energy. The challenge is negative energy is magnetic.
I love 9 and 10!!!!
Great as always.
First everyone has to Listen to the leader!
Second everyone has to understand what was said!
Third everyone should have an opportunity to clarify that they get the picture!
The disruptive people may be just poorly educated(not making excuses) may need further guidance or coaching as you so put it!
disruption is tough to handle , but we have to think clearly what the disruption really is compared to what we may think it is.
Then there are times meetings are controlled with constraints that time causes improper presentations and poor communication.
Thanks Tim. The challenge of tight timelines makes everything matter more. Trust becomes even more important.
cancel the meeting when it’s not needed is a good practice too.
Thanks Bill. It’s too easy to slip into having meetings just because we have them scheduled. good call
Thanks Dan for yet another really good post. I am struggling with #7 and wonder if a slightly different approach might create learning for the disruptive person. Instead of telling them their ideas don’t apply to this situation, get curious and ask them how their ideas apply to this situation. This provides them with the opportunity to share their perspective (which may actually be on point – see #10) and align it with the goals – if they can’t then they can shut themselves up instead of the leader having to and if their perspective is on point, they have made a valuable contribution. I think being curious, open to understand others while holding boundaries can be more effective than telling which can lead to judging, blaming and even shaming.
Thanks Kathy. I appreciate your coaching approach. I see your passion to develop people. I share it. I find, in my own journey, that I have to be careful not to sacrifice short-term results for long-term development.
I prefer the approach you suggest. I also believe that sometimes you have to take the bull by the horns. There are long-term benefits for stepping up and taking control of meetings and/or team members who are way off the mark. 🙂
I like the point of establishing a goal that everyone agrees upon at the beginning so that you can keep coming back to that goal throughout the conversation. I’m a former classroom teacher and this is exactly what we’re doing when we state an objective up front and continue to follow up with whether we’re meeting that objective. Now I just need to transfer that in other areas. Thanks! I’m not in business but still enjoy these points.
Thanks Doreen. I got the sense that agreeing on the goal makes it easier to hold people accountable to stay on target if things go astray. It does take concentration to keep meetings focused.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve had a series of meetings with people who are going to be the most affected by an effort to consolidate several divisions all under one roof. It’s a challenge to convince this group that whatever they come up with will likely be what is implemented, since the manager in charge of all of this has essentially recused himself and just wants an “answer.” A couple of the team members spend most of the time complaining about the plan and arguing rather than trying to see how to make it work best for their group. They keep forgetting that if they don’t come up with something soon, the half-solution they’ve come up with so far is going to get imposed upon them. I think sometimes team members will be distracting and disruptive simply because they really don’t know what it is they want, or because they just don’t want t anything to change.
Thanks Cheryl. Your last sentence has two groups in it; those who don’t know and those who know.
Some don’t know what they want. Identifying what we want is powerful. The other group knows what they want… more of the same. I think there are separate strategies for dealing with these separate groups.
James, don’t call me out. I am a very good listener and appreciate all the feedback through the day on the question. I like the point of making the objective clear and when the meeting contains anywhere from 15-25 people this is even more critical. I would hope that all full time, “professional” staff can also recognize when conversation is heading in the wrong direction or on a tangent off topic we all can self regulate to some degree. If not a private meeting is in order.
Thanks Doug. The size of the group seems like a big challenge. With a group that large prep work may help. Are the key players informed and aligned.
You have my best. Thanks for getting this conversation going.
Doug your insights are right on target.Unless you enjoy meetings that ‘drag on’ forever, meetings should be where we get things done, ‘parties’ on the other hand are a great place for ‘needless conversation’… (PUN INTENDED)
There are many ways to address this problem.
Here is one I put in practice:
Come to our meeting if you are motivated and if you are coming to bring something or get something.
If not… STAY AWAY. I trust that being a professional you can make that judgement very well.
..colleagues who stay away often may appear to be not professional enough, miss critical information and feedback and may stay away all together.