How Ego Squanders Talent and Chokes the Life Out of Meetings
A great meeting is as rare as a white moose.
Count yourself fortunate if you ever see one.
I just left a half-day meeting with a team that I’ve worked with over two years. It was great because of who they are and what I didn’t do.
Meetings include conversations in three directions.
- The leader talks to the people around the table.
- The people around the table talk to the leader.
- The people around the table talk to each other.
All three directions are relevant.
Successful leaders provide direction to meetings, but they don’t monopolize the conversation.
When one person does most of the talking, the people around the table disengage.
Yes, there are times when leaders speak to inform, provide focus, or add insight. But my experience indicates that leaders talk way too much in meetings.
Today, as I listened to the conversation, I felt a need to be the “wise one.” My ego whispered, “You have ‘the’ answer. After all, they hired you because you’re so smart.”
My ego loves me more than anyone else.
- Monopolizes conversations.
- Overshadows others.
- Needs the spotlight.
- Defends its viewpoint, rather than exploring another’s perspective.
- Adds too much “value” to the contributions of others.
- Loves to look like the smartest person at the table.
Ego in the leader sucks the life out of the talent around the table.
Leading the meeting isn’t dominating the conversation.
Talking to each other:
- Strengthens connections.
- Generates surprising insights and options.
- Fuels energy.
Get people talking to each other.
- Fred, I noticed you haven’t contributed yet. What’s going through your mind?
- Where does Wilma’s comment take our conversation?
- Let’s generate a list of ideas that might help Barney work through his concern.
How might you lead meetings without dominating conversations?
Great piece and example of the need to have the self-awraeness to ‘know thyself’ and to have the core skills to habitually ‘seek first to understand and then to be undestood’, as the basis for acheiving genuine dialogue and effcetiveness.
Thanks Tim. Yes, I think we might be too eager to impart knowledge and too reluctant to connect and learn. Imparting knowledge is important. But the understanding people comes first.
Can you explain in more detail or with an example the comment “EGO: … Adds too much ‘value’ to the contributions of others.”
Meetings are such a great place to empower individuals and let others opinions be heard. Great ideas will arise if we follow this advice. Thanks Dan.
I’ve found creating structure has helped me and other leaders. Agenda items posed as questions creates a nudge towards the chair facilitating the answers rather than giving them. Adding a column for ‘how’ also sets up the process by which the answers will be gained (e.g. time to think rounds). Ego can always trump process, but having a deliberately designed process for inclusive contribution creates a potential for shifts. Also helps people arrive being clear on their expected contribution
Dan, I really appreciate your blog and aside from focusing on scripture and prayer, your blog feeds my love for the topic of leadership and keeps be growing in this area. I say this because I just want to make a comment from someone who appears to be extroverted but I am really introverted. If a leader of a meeting pointed me out and said “Patti, I noticed you haven’t contributed yet. What’s going through your mind?” I would feel a bit put down and that wouldn’t help me engage. It actually might stifle me more. I’m wondering if having a side bar with that person to help them prepare to talk at a meeting rather than blindsiding them wouldn’t be more helpful with that personality type. Just food for thought …. Your Fan!!
Dan, I struggle with being the leader of meetings that span multiple locations. With at least half of the group on the phone, it is really difficult to “read” the attendees and get everyone engaged.
Hey Mark, The distributed team presents some unique challenges. I wonder if planned participation might be useful. Could you assign various topics of the meeting to people from different locations? Before the meeting, ask someone for X location to lead the discussion of topic #1. Ask someone from Y location to lead the discussion of topic #2. (Just a thought) Best wishes