Managing the "Meeting from Hell"

Dana Brownlee

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Facilitation Techniques to Help You Manage Three Common Dysfunctional Personalities

The Problem
Sherry couldn't stop thinking about her last team meeting as she walked down the hall towards her office. Slamming her office door behind her, she let out an exasperated scream and looked for something the punch! Her team was driving her absolutely crazy and she channeled Scarlett O'Hara as she proclaimed, "I will never run a meeting like that again!" Her problem in a nutshell boiled down to four really difficult personalities that continually recurred on her team. These personalities were indeed a cancer not just infecting the team and its results but also spreading throughout the group and infecting the other team members as well. Sherry needs an antidote, and she needs it now!

The Slacker
Every team relies on its team members to follow up on tasks as assigned. When action items aren't resolved in a timely manner, the team often ends up in a black hole of meeting déjá vu where the same unresolved issues seem to come up over and over again (never getting permanent resolution).

The Problem:
Too many meeting leaders struggle with team members who don't follow up on action items thereby slowing down the progress of the overall team. Worse yet, this negative behavior can undermine the credibility of the meeting leader and spread throughout the rest of the team. Before this happens to you, try a few of these techniques...

Try these techniques...

- Document all action items on a flip chart or whiteboard so that they are visible to everyone

- If you're conducting a virtual meeting, you can use a virtual whiteboard to document actions (if not available, be sure to repeat them verbally for the scribe)

- For each action item include the owner, task, and due date

- Repeat the task wording to the owner and ask if he/she has questions or concerns

- If the action item owner has concerns, elicit a volunteer to help them with the task

- Ask the owner to suggest a due date (don't just assign one)

- If concerned, follow up with the action item owner a few days prior to the due date to check on progress

- Suggest a ground rule that if an action item owner can't complete an action item on time, he/she is expected to work with another team member to get it resolved by the due date

- Establish an efficient action item management database/system (e.g. Eroom, Sharepoint, Online group, etc.)

- If the action item owner arrives unprepared, ask them to still provide a read out to the team (don't let them just privately provide you an excuse before the meeting)

- Verbally review all action items at the end of the meeting

- Include all action items in the meeting notes and ensure they are also pasted into the body of the meeting notes email