Tips For Planning Effective Meetings

By: David Ingram

Meetings are a crucial reality, and necessary to keep projects on schedule, communicate strategic direction and facilitate collaboration. Meetings can build rapport and camaraderie, providing a single outlet for leaders to communicate face-to-face. Bringing cross-functional teams together in a meeting can allow members of each function to contribute ideas and perspectives in a group setting.

Despite these benefits, meetings are often considered the largest time-waster in office environments. Employees perceive that they attend too many meetings, and that half of the time they spend in meetings is wasted, according to a study conducted by Opinion Matters. Finding ways to make meetings more productive is a never-ending struggle that, when successful, can yield significant improvements in financial metrics, employee performance and engagement, and company productivity.

Developing strategies to reconcile the value of meetings with participants’ negative perceptions can result in fewer and more effective meetings that deliver real results. Since common time-wasters most often arise from meeting participants, strategies to make meetings more effective naturally rely on dealing with different forms of disruptive or counterproductive behavior. The good news is that strategies for more effective meetings do not rest entirely on the leaders’ shoulders. Rather, all participants can do their part to contribute to more efficient meetings by coming prepared to deal with specific disruptive behaviors with creative solutions.

In this blog we discuss typical challenges that each SOCIAL STYLE can bring to meetings, and how leaders can effectively manage such behavior. In a future blog, we’ll highlight the important role that other meeting participants have during meetings and the steps they can take to improve meeting effectiveness.

Common Meeting Challenges Tied to SOCIAL STYLE Backup Behavior

An article from The Wall Street Journal focuses on four personality types that frequently surface to derail meeting agendas and shift focus away from primary objectives. According to the article, “Naysayers” are those who seem to disagree with and discourage most ideas brought up in meetings, without offering alternative solutions to group problems. “Silent plotters” are participants who seemingly comply with strategic directions set forth in meetings, only to quietly spread doubt and discontent through informal communication networks afterward. “Ramblers” or “Jokesters” are those who waste meeting time by dominating conversations with irrelevant rhetoric. Finally, “Dominators” are those who place supreme importance on their own views and agendas, and who have a tendency to take control of meetings to steer conversations in their desired directions, and they often fail to listen to others.

A closer look at each of these disruptive personality traits reveals striking similarities to the four SOCIAL STYLEs and Backup Behavior. Backup Behaviors are tied to each Style’s fundamental need, and are activated subconsciously when someone’s interpersonal tension rises due to feeling threatened, dissatisfied with outcomes or marginalized in social settings.

Dominators’ behavior closely correlates to the Driving Style’s tendency to take control of meetings when Backup Behavior comes into play, while Naysayers’ disruptive behavior correlates to the Analytical Style’s Avoidance tendency that is displayed when they dismiss ideas that are are not backed up with supporting evidence. The behavior of Silent Plotters resembles the Backup Behavior of Amiable-Style participants, who may appear to acquiesce and comply with meeting outcomes despite inner disagreement. The Expressive Style presents an exception to the rule. Rather than mirroring the Expressive Style’s Backup Behavior of verbal confrontation, Jokesters and Ramblers more closely resemble Expressive-Style participants’ natural spontaneous behavioral tendencies left unchecked.

Plan a Meeting around Behavioral Preferences

Helping meeting participants to overcome their natural Backup Behaviors can boost each participant’s personal effectiveness and allow them to maximize the value of their contributions. Leaders have a wide range of creative strategies at their disposal to prevent participants’ Backup Behaviors from hijacking meetings and dampening productivity. Knowing how to deal with disruptive behavior as it occurs in real-time is valuable, but the most effective solutions rely on effective planning and preparation before a meeting begins.

Strategies for overcoming Amiable-Style participants’ Backup Behavior require formal leaders to intentionally involve these members by soliciting their input specifically. Asking a group for their opinions will often result in Expressives and Driving-Style participants speaking up quickly, causing Amiable-Style participants to feel forcefully left out. Asking Amiables specifically for input can put them at ease and create an environment in which they feel safe to contribute. For Amiable-Style attendees with a strong tendency to quietly acquiesce in meetings, especially in conflict, leaders can plan ahead by seeking their input and concerns before a meeting, and bringing up those issues themselves if the Amiables do not speak up.

Requiring Analytical-Style attendees to make hasty statements or decisions is a reliable way to activate their Backup Behavior. To avoid Analyticals acting like Naysayers, leaders can come to meetings prepared with all of the documentation required for an Analytical to make an informed decision. Alternatively, leaders can present detailed meeting agendas to Analyticals beforehand to allow them time to gather their own documentation and research.

References: The Wall Street Journal: Meet the Meeting Killers

Author: Dave Ingram is the author of this article. His writing has been featured in The Motley Fool, The Houston Chronicle, NYSE Moneysense and Yahoo. Read more from Dave at