Here’s the deal, meeting leader: In your meeting room you have some participants who are loud, talkative, and opinionated. You also have others who are quiet, analytical, and reserved with their opinions. Whose opinion do we hear more? Typically, the loud, dominant people run the meeting. Their opinions get heard, while the more quiet, turn-taking members do not. Then we wonder why not everyone is on board with decisions made. The quiet ones are outside the meeting room afterward, sharing their opinions with others, creating new conversations, and possibly altering the plan. One way or the other, your quiet members’ hidden dragons are going to come out. In the meeting room there is a better chance that their perspectives could result in a productive discussion. But if the conversations are happening outside of the meeting room, you have a greater challenge. Factions are being created by those who have no voice otherwise and they are waiting to spring on you.
Your job as meeting leader is to get everyone’s opinion and perspective heard. You need to have a plan as to how you want to approach your meeting discussions. If your usual approach sounds like, “So here’s our problem. What do you all think?,” then you need more tools in your tool box.
Skills necessary to handle these group dynamics are counter to polite societal convention. You must be comfortable with calling on people directly. Use their names. Ask them a direct question. Warn them about this ahead of time, so they don’t freak out, but let them know you are going to involve them in the meeting.
You must be comfortable in cutting someone off who is dominating and has given their opinion three times in the last 15 minutes. You must quickly summarize what they’ve said and move on. Do not open the door for them again for a while.
Use turn taking. Do not just open the conversation to whomever would like to speak. If you have a more analytical group, give them a chance to write down their thoughts before speaking. That helps a great deal.
Finally, if someone has a grumpy look on his/her face, or is sitting with arms crossed and generally huffing and puffing, call them out. Is something on his/her mind? Truly open the door to them. Invite them to share their concerns. If you, as the meeting leader, are not comfortable with this, this is a growth opportunity for you. Because, trust me, if they are not sharing their frustrations with you in the meeting, they are sharing them very openly outside the door. Look for the next post on how to handle negativity.