Difficult people killing your meetings?

difficult employeeSamir Penkar, a consultant who was running a daily meeting for 20 employees at an insurance company, noticed that he had two ramblers taking his meetings off track.

Solution? He brought chocolates into the meeting. Every time a rambler started veering into the danger zone, Penkar handed the person a chocolate. After two weeks, he had trained the ramblers to stick to the agenda.

Ramblers are bad, but not as bad as naysayers, quiet plotters, interrupters or dominators.

Patti Johnson, chief executive of PeopleResults, tangled with a naysayer in one big meeting several years ago. Her colleagues had been ready to reach consensus on a new project when a naysayer raised a question that was impossible to answer—and derailed the entire discussion.

Others were frustrated, saying “Why are you bringing this up at this point? Shouldn’t you have said something earlier?” But the naysayer had done enough to stall the project.

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Leaders often meet with naysayers before the actual meeting to flush out any objections or challenges to avoid this very scenario.

To undo a quiet plotter, someone who stays silent during the meeting but stirs up trouble afterward, call on him during the meeting to elicit his feedback.

Other advice from the pros for getting more done in meetings:

  • Interrupt people who talk too long or who talk to one another.
  • Do a “round robin” to hear everyone’s input.
  • Ask quiet participants in advance to contribute to the meeting in a specific way.
  • Ban devices outright, or provide a “tech break” for people to check email and text messages.

— Adapted from “Meet the Meeting Killers,” Sue Shellenbarger, The Wall Street Journal.