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Dawn Baird

Partner at Sensei
Dawn Baird is a writer, coach and trainer based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She is inspired by the enabling and liberating principles of Dweck's Growth Mindset, Langer's brand of Mindfulness and anyone who has the cahones to call a spade a spade. She drinks Tempted Dry or Earl Grey, depending on the mood. 😉
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Ennui? It’s a French word that means listlessness, langour. Think Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker languishing in The Great Gatsby. We’ve been having something of a Long Island-fest lately and exploring every version of The Great Gatsby we can find. Fans might pick up a few references!

This blog post is written from the point of view of meeting organisers and chairs who arrange and attend physical meetings where attendees must attend in person.

It’s So Hot, And Everything is Confused

I usually try to highlight what I think is the most important point in my blog posts. This is it: Open the dang window, or door! Almost every meeting I’ve attended has taken place in an airless room. As an HSP, I’ve almost fainted a few times. Take care of your HSPs.

  • There are some nasty things that happen with human aromas when you don’t open the window. I’m just going to leave that hanging in the air.
  • People’s brains stop functioning optimally. And when they stop functioning, people think, speak and decide slower. Slower is not a good thing when it comes to meetings.

There are Only the Pursued, the Pursuing, the Busy and the Tired

First, think carefully whether the meeting could instead take the form of an email, a conference call or a Skype. Then if a meeting is absolutely necessary, implement the following.

  1. Get rid of the circular emails.
  2. Stop requiring everyone and his cat to attend.
  3. Inform only required attendees of the agenda.
  4. State the start and stop time. Finish early.
  5. Learn some Assertiveness techniques to shut down the pontificators.
  6. Reduce minutes (if any) to bullet point decision summaries, together with dated, assigned tasks. Send it to the invitees only. Assume they will forward it on to anyone else who needs it.

Once in a While I Go Off on a Spree

You know the type. They talk and talk and talk. They’re called extroverts. What they’re doing is thinking – out loud. It’s just what they do. It helps them come to a conclusion.

  1. First of all, examine the behaviour of your team. Figure out who’re the extroverts (those whose energy expands in a crowd, who tend to talk more) and who’re the introverts (those whose energy depletes in a crowd, who tend to talk less).
  2. Extroverts need a little corralling. Learn how to use Assertiveness to curtail them when others need an opportunity to speak. But they provide great energy, drive and impetus, so don’t corral too much.

With An Effort, She Glanced Down at the Table

So what do you do about passive, quiet or shy types, who hardly contribute? I fit into – and have chaired meetings with – the “quiet” category, so here’s what I know about these types from a career of over 20 years.

  1. Give them time to prepare. This means no last-minute meetings. Send the agenda. And the attendee list.
  2. Offer them an opportunity to present a short talk or demo at the meeting. Quiet people (introverts) do best when they have time to prepare.
  3. Ask them a direct question, one that is obvious based on their job title, skills and experience. Address them by name, so there is no confusion.
  4. Give them a few moments to collect their thoughts. Quiet people think internally. They will take a few seconds longer to answer.
  5. Thank them for their contribution.

Human Sympathy Has Its Limits

Regardless of personality, you’ll encounter the ramblers, the aggressive types and the whingers.

  1. People who talk too much, often without saying anything of value – just like Daisy Buchanan – need to be stopped. Again, be assertive – more rudeness is not acceptable. Divert: Ask a direct question to another, named person.
  2. If the louder, talkative ones are also the naysayers, ask for specific examples – and solutions. Insist on solutions.
  3. Thank aggressive types for their contribution, but ask others for their reaction. If you have the room on your side, this can work well to quell a riot. If not, cut it off sharply but respectfully. Remind everyone of the agenda. Do not allow them to take over the time.

So We Beat On, Boats Against the Current

It’s always been done this way. We never have food at a lunchtime meeting, people can eat when they’re back at their desk. We always meet in the soul-sucking conference room with the 1970s drapes.

  1. Order in snacks. Everyone will come! It helps break the ice particularly when attendees are not all acquainted.
  2. Ask someone else to chair. Enable people to either discover new talents, or empathy for your usual role.
  3. Hold a standing meeting, an outside meeting or one in a different place.
  4. Finish early. You’ll be the talk of the town!

I’d love to know which of these tactics you use to confidently run meetings. Which do you like? Which will you try? If you need help running meetings or helping change a company culture, get in touch. We’d love to work with you.

Image credit: cjroarty