6 Meeting Saboteurs Every Leader Meets
“If a leader does not have great meetings, he or she is not an effective leader.” Patrick Lencioni
6 Meeting saboteurs:
(The original list had two 2’s in it. I fixed the numbering below and decided to leave the article title the same.)
Prepare for saboteurs if you lead meetings.
#1. Elmer Email pretends he’s taking notes, but he’s reading and sending emails.
Solution: Use pen and paper. Put away all cell phones and laptops.
#2. Shirley Squirrel chases irrelevant ideas, sister to Harry Hijacker.
Solution: Say, “I’m lost. Could you help me see the connection to our current topic?”
#3. William Wetinski sucks the life out of every encounter.
Solution: Assign solo work to life-suckers.
Solution: Ask vampires to brief the team on a topic. Turn to the team for recommendations.
Tip: Coach vampires on Emotional Intelligence.
#4. Tanya Tardy comes late and apologizes.
- Start on time.
- Ignore her when she arrives.
- NEVER RECAP.
- Speak to her privately.
#5. Ned Needmore can’t decide because he needs more information.
Solution: Ask Mr. Needmore what he needs if he had to decide today. (Read: How to Move the Agenda Forward and Make People Feel Powerful.)
#6. Franny Fault-Finder kills ideas before they get legs.
Solution: Ask Ms. Fault-Finder, “What’s the next step if you had to bring this idea to life?”
3 reasons to meet:
- To do things that are best done in groups.
- To experience spontaneity.
- To save time. Meetings that waste time are evil.
Bill Gates rule for meetings: Have short agendas. Provide time for lively discussion.
In general, 60% of meeting time should be reserved for discussion. (Bob Herbold, former COO Microsoft)
A blabbermouth at the head of the table causes lifeless meetings. Any meetings where one person talks and everyone around the table sits like obedient children are about ego.
Send an email or do a video monologue if one person is going to do all the talking.
What meeting saboteurs have you seen?
Hey, I recognize some of those characters, they came to my meetings too! 🙂
Several years ago, after reading an article, I started adding “expected outcome” to my agenda items, folks arrived understanding if the item was to make a decision, a plan, appoint a champion, etc. It really added to effectiveness. Another leader I respect (in a non-profit setting) adds to his agendas a final item “Are we aligned?” as a closing item… its a great question.
Thanks Ken. Wonderful insights and suggestions. Most agenda items need an action item. “Expected outcome,” is a practical way to make that happen.
Meetings have a beginning, middle, and end. Each part deserves special attention and an individual approach.
Good morning Dan! I noticed you were very fair with genders throughout – made me smile! Brings me back to your fairly recent blog where there were complaints about (was it ‘Nelly’ and ‘Pam’?) negative names being associated to primarily women. I noticed throughout this one your careful consideration to spread the joy equally! Have a dandy day!
Thanks Sacha. Let’s spread the joy. 🙂
I have been a Tanya Tardy, but not on purpose. Here’s what I ask of others I work with who hold meetings to ensure no one has to apologize when they come in late. I start my meeting by looking around the room and smiling. I ask people how their day is going and I listen. I give people two minutes to breathe and connect with each other, and this very slight delay gives those on the run a chance to join us without missing anything. We’ve all had days with back-to-back meetings. Or times when someone runs into us in the elevator or hallway on our way to a meeting and needs 30 seconds to provide an important exchange of information. Sometimes we just have to hit the restroom while on the go. If someone comes in later than two minutes, I acknowledge them and sometimes give a quick update of what they’ve missed. However, if someone is chronically late, we will definitely be having a chat.
Thanks Rboyd. Great comment. I think scheduling is a problem with meetings. Meetings should either begin 10 minutes after the hour, or end 10 minutes before the hour.
I feel your compassion.
Great stuff – very skillful … in a most compassionate way. #3 Never Recap – tough love.
Thanks Ian. Stay well.
Thank you for this.
Your welcome, Daniel.
You are very clever to sneak a 6th meeting saboteurs into your 5. I did appreciate your post and your principles! Always practical and helpful. Thank you.
Shhhh! 🙂 Thanks Ken.
If the purpose of the meeting is to make a decision, make a decision. Kicking the can down the road does not move these issues forward. Allowing a saboteur to bring up new reasons not to make a decision or more time to present alternatives can be very challenging.
Thanks Kishal. Can-kicking should be reserved for the people who sabotage meetings.
A USEFUL “saboteur” is that person with the Devil’s Advocate mindset, the person who ALWAYS looks for problems in any situation. That role is actually useful, since it does generate added perspective, but it CAN be very tiring to all involved. A solution is to define that actual behavior and then rotate it among the team members so that each one is asked to play that role for different meetings.
This tends to reduce that one individual’s tendency to always think that way. Personal coaching can also help.
Patsy-Agnes’ Passive-Aggressive’s children Simon Sidebar and Gerri Gesture. Simon Sidebar whispers to themselves or others as the speaker is presenting. Gerri Gesture’s body language mocks or challenges the speaker (i.e. eye rolling, frowning, glaring, sighing).
How do you effectively deal with Simon and Gerri? They put the speaker in a lose-lose situation. Simon and Gerri win when the speaker stops or loses confidence per voice or body language. The speaker also loses by calling out Simon and Gerri (i.e. “Are there any concerns? I notice some looks”).
This is an interesting topic and a great discussion. The first topic of someone not actually taking notes on the computer, but using their computer for something else is a great discussion on the differences between generations. I had this same discussion with a coworker who is in an older generation than myself. I am a millennial while this person is a baby boomer. Our discussion was over how frustrating it is for her that someone would use a computer during a meeting. For myself, it does not bother me at all, partially because I use a computer in meetings. She had the approach that pen and paper should be used for meetings while I have the view of using a computer is very helpful. From my view, it is so helpful to have a computer in a meeting to actively look up answers to questions which is what happen in a meeting that we were in. There was a question about a certain regulation and with the computer the answer was found relatively quick. If everyone in the room had pen and paper, we would have to go back to our offices look up the answer and start an email chain which can take valuable time. For this case, that was avoided since a computer(s) was in the meeting and the answer was found. We also discussed that it looks like the individuals are not paying attention during a meeting if they have a computer in front of them, especially if they are typing. This could be the truth that an individual is not paying attention, but I discussed with her from my view that many times during a meeting when a topic is brought up I start to research on my computer before asking or answering a question. Millennials went through college with their computer in every class, so it makes sense that a computer is used in meetings. As more younger generations enter the workforce there will be more difference between generations.
Thanks Dan, I appreciated the colorful commentating throughout the article. It is almost inevitable to have a couple of these characters in most meetings I attend due to the size of the meetings. For example Elmer Email. I have sat behind so many people that are playing games, answering emails, and even online shopping in almost every conferences or meeting I have attended. I think at time its more distracting for me than it is for the people playing the games. I have also been on the other side where I am presenting and you have people on their phones. I am not going to lie as I have done this before but once I was on the other side of the table I became a better listener and obtained a new respect for people’s time. Your way of dealing with Harry Hijacker was so easy but brilliant as I have never thought of that simple phrase, “I’m lost, how this is relevant”, that could steer the group back on course. I agree with keeping meeting short and simple leaving plenty of time for discussion. Most time the discussion spills over and many of the key players are already off to the next meeting and miss out. If you are like me than once a meeting has run over you start to lose interest and almost stop listening.