Intervening In Bad Meeting Behaviors

For many reasons, leaders allow disruptive behaviors to continue in meetings:

  • They have gotten complacent
  • They don’t want to cause conflict
  • They don’t know how to intervene in the behaviors

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Do not allow bad meeting behaviors negatively impact the productivity of your organization or department. Instead, utilize the 5 Power Steps to Facilitating Bad Meeting Behaviors:

1) Know The Types of Disruptive Meeting Behaviors
2) Identify Disruptive Behaviors
3) Intervene In Disruptive Behaviors
4) Use Firm But Friendly Confrontation
5) Take it Offline

1. What are some types of disruptive behaviors we often see in meetings?

    • Late arrivers
    • Ramblers
    • Side Conversationalists
    • Note Passers
    • Multi-taskers
    • Non-participators
    • Dominators
    • Chronic objectors
    • Gate-closers
    • Off-the-wall commenters
    • Eye rollers
    • Sighers
    • Personal attackers

2. How can leaders identify disruptive behaviors as they happen?

    • Realize that your job is not only to lead the attendees through the agenda, but also to facilitate behaviors that prevent the meeting from being successful
    • Scrutinize meetings in the moment: What could go better?
    • Reflect on meetings that don’t seem to be as productive as they should be: what needs to change?

3. How can a leader intervene in disruptive behaviors in meetings?

    • Use non-verbal cues
    • Acknowledge and reinforce acceptable behavior: Joe, that’s a really great idea
    • Utilize a Hold Bin when the meeting gets off topic
    • Employ Team feedback tools
      • Plus/Delta (What are we doing well? What could we do better?)
      • Team Effectiveness Surveys
      • Have the team create Ground Rules that address their specific behavioral issues
        • Review Ground Rules and ask the team to give themselves feedback on how they are doing against the Group Rules
    • Encourage shared responsibility for handling disruptive behavior

For Non-Participators:

    • Invite people into the conversation: Joe, what ideas do you have on this subject?
    • Round Robin
      • Round Robin “Post It Note” variation

4. What is firm but friendly confrontation?

It is a framework for intervention in disruptive behaviors. The interventions are in order from the softest intervention to the strongest intervention. Tread cautiously with the strong interventions.

A. Firm But Friendly Confrontation:

General Question

Example 1:  Does anyone feel there are some personal attacks going on here?
Example 2:  Does anyone else feel we are digressing?

General Statement (no names)

Example 1:  We had agreed as a team not to commit personal attacks.
Example 2:  We had agreed as a team that we would be on time to this meeting.

Specific Question

Example 1: Margaret, do you think you might have been attacking Joe just then?
Example 2: For a side conversation: Andrea, do you have anything to add?

Specific Statement

Example 1:  Margaret, you seem to be personally attacking Joe.
Example 2:  Joe, you seem to be objecting to this idea.

B. Three-Part Structured Feedback
I see/hear

Example 1:  I hear some personal attacks going on.
Example 2:  I hear a lack of openness to new ideas in this team.

I feel

Example 1:  I feel anxious because we might hurt people’s feelings and block new ideas.
Example 2:  I feel anxious because we might not consider a good idea.

I imagine/assume

Example 1:  I imagine some of us are feeling frustrated by these personal attacks.
Example 2:  I assume we have some preconceived notions that block us from listening to new ideas.

5. When should a leader Take it Offline?

    • When offenders don’t respond to an intervention or when a disruptive behavior is extreme.
    • Be diplomatic and explain to the person why their behavior impacts the group adversely.

NOTE: This is not the ideal approach for team growth and team dynamics.

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Listen to Donna discuss these principles on the “Coaching for Leaders” Podcast with Dave Stachowiak:

Episode 173: Five Power Steps for Bad Meeting Behavior


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