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Meetings Management: Little Voices

The reason we have meetings is to be better informed so that we can make better decisions and create effective courses of action to implement those decisions. It’s therefore vital that our meetings involve everyone (and not just the louder or more confident voices) and are productive environments in which we can carefully listen as well as talk.

Assuming that a meeting has been properly organized ahead of time, with a clear start and finish time, an agenda (however short) and the right decision-makers (or their delegated person) at the table, the main task in running a successful meeting lies with the meeting convener, chairperson or facilitator (and these will usually be the same person). An experienced meeting facilitator will either know or would have had the opportunity to observe the behavior of every individual at a meeting table. In so doing, it will be readily realized that people behave in very different ways in meetings. Some people start to behave in quite a particular way right from the outset by sitting in the most central seat in the room, or closest to the chairperson (or even in the ‘darkest’ or most invisible corner) or may speak first or most or even last and least. Some people are focused on the task at hand and others are distracted or just “doodling”. In other words, people will make different contributions to a meeting and will behave in quite a wide variety of ways.

Of the above characters, all of which may appear, the extrovert is potentially by far the most difficult to manage well in a meeting. If the extrovert is allowed to dominate, other attendees will quickly become frustrated and bored and will feel under-valued. The meeting facilitator therefore needs to be firm but fair in letting the extroverts make their contribution but also seek to prevent them from dominating proceedings. This is particularly the case where extroverts become overly assertive or even aggressive about their own suggestions and solutions offered or start to ‘rail-road’ other meeting attendees.

In addition to controlling the extraverts, a meeting facilitator also needs to encourage the quieter or more introverted people to contribute. Clearly, we never want to force an individual to speak when they are not happy to do so, but more often than not, such individuals are willing to contribute providing they are not aggressively contradicted before they have finished, talked over, interrupted constantly or even face having their sentences finished for them (all habits that a louder, more impatient and more extraverted person may engage in). Such individuals therefore need time to be heard and it is the meeting facilitator’s job to ensure this happens.

The featured video clip is drawn from the ReadyToManage, Rapid Skill Builder Meetings Management Video Vignette Set.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at OptimalJon@gmail.com

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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