Small Business Meetings and Personalities

No doubt you’ve run into the following person at some small business meeting you’ve attended. It’s the person who tries to dominate the meeting. They tend to go on at length with their opinions and may even cut off others when they are expressing their views. This type of meeting participant is called a “dominator” and they can stifle the exchange necessary to achieve meeting goals. When you have a dominator in a meeting, it’s up to the meeting organizer to actively seek input from other participants.

However, it’s not just a dominator who can disrupt an important meeting. In Plantronics The Better Meetings Blueprint,  we identify six other types of meeting participants who can influence a meeting agenda and outcome negatively and recommend how best to deal with each. They include:

Multitasker: They may think they can get a lot of things done but more often than not, it’s at the expense of contributing to the meeting. Best way to deal with a multitasker is to jokingly ask them if they are multitasking and remind them the group would benefit from their input.

Wallflower: Wallflowers generally sit back and listen. They might IM a comment if they are remote rather than speak up. They even may wait till the meeting is over to express their views. To make sure they contribute, give them a specific assignment or topic to explore prior to the meeting so they can prepare in advance to speak when called on.

Pessimist: Pessimists in meetings (and out) can sap the energy and enthusiasm of the group. They are generally inclined to explain why something can’t be done and so often nothing is. When you encounter pessimists, validate their concerns but don’t let them off the hook. Ask them what they think is a better approach to the problem.

Agreeable: Someone who is too agreeable doesn’t want to upset the applecart or offend anyone, so you don’t really know what they think. Make sure they understand that there are no right or wrong answers or opinions and ask them to give theirs.

Noisemaker: The noisemaker forgets to press the mute button when they are on a conference call, so everyone can hear whatever they are doing that is loud enough to be picked up and disrupt the call. You’ll need to remind noisemakers to mute their line. If they fail and are disrupting the audio quality of the conference, drop them from the call.

Derailer: Whether intentionally or unintentionally, the derailer takes the meeting off on a tangent that makes it difficult to get back on course. As soon as this happens, thank the person for the input but suggest they stick to the topic for the sake of achieving the meeting goals.

While certain personalities may challenge the effectiveness of your small business meetings, you also want to be sure to get things on track from the beginning. In “The Seven Imperatives to Keep Meetings on Track,” in Harvard Business Review, Amy Gallo offers these suggestions among others:

  • Make the purpose clear: Everyone attending should know upfront the purpose of the meeting. That’s why you need to send out an agenda and any necessary background materials in advance of the meeting.  It also helps to point out what won’t be covered. When it comes to agenda items, Gallo suggests consider making them questions – such as when will the videos be completed – and assign participants roles relative to each item. Someone may be responsible for providing background information and another for making a final decision.
  • Set the right tone: Make it clear your role is to steward all the ideas set forth in the meeting; not to convince participants of your viewpoint. Establish a team atmosphere so everyone feels good about working together.
  • Make careful transitions: Before you move from one topic to the next make sure that everyone is finished with the topic at hand. Otherwise, some people may still be focused on a topic that is no longer on the table and can’t give their full attention to what’s being said.

To find out more about conducting better meetings, and getting the most from everyone involved to achieve your small business goals, download Plantronics The Better Meetings Blueprint.