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Who Will Be In the Meeting? Facilitating Different Personalities

April 12, 2019 8:24 pm

It can be challenging as a facilitator to manage the variety of personalities in any given meeting. As tempting as it might be to treat everyone the same, or use your own behavioural style as the default, chances are the results will be less than ideal.

Instead, let’s take a look at some of the most common behaviours that derail meetings and see how we can either prevent or leverage them to our advantage once we start facilitating with behavioural styles in mind.

The Life of the Party, err, Meeting (assertive, people-oriented)

You know that meeting attendee who can somehow get a room full of strangers laughing, whose informal side chats throw you off your facilitation game, and can rally everyone to either revolt or accomplish great things without even raising a sweat? Chances are, you’ve got an influencer on your hands.

Before the meeting: Be very clear about time limits; think of adding a short, informal check-in to allow for some contained socialization

During the meeting: Build in lots of structure (round robins, small group work, etc.) to curb over-participation; stick to agenda timeframes; elicit support from these great communicators – get them to buy-in and they’ll soon sell the rest of the group

After the meeting: Follow-through can be a struggle with this behavioural style, so reminders of action item deadlines, etc. can be helpful

A Real Team Player with a “Can’t Do” Attitude (reserved, people-oriented)

You know those meeting participants with great empathy and a deep sense of justice who helpfully shows the group the human cost of any option being considered? Unfortunately, this same behavioural style often clams up when things get a little heated and doesn’t always stand by the decisions made after they leave the meeting room if they or others haven’t been included in the decision-making process.

Before the meeting: include in your meeting process time for individual reflection before sharing ideas in the larger group; if it’s not a full team meeting, make sure you’re comfortable answering why some people weren’t invited

During the meeting: are there any relationship or personnel implications for decisions being made? If so, make sure they’re being openly addressed; participation isn’t optional – make sure it’s included as an expectation in your norms

After the meeting: ensure you communicate that it’s everyone’s job to support the decisions they helped make, and it’s everyone’s job to (gently, supportively) call out others who don’t.

The Meeting Dominator (assertive, task-oriented)

You know that meeting participant that cuts others off, asks when we’ll get to the point, and has perfected selective hearing? You may be dealing with a dominant behavioral style.

Before the meeting: Ensure the key deliverable for your meeting is spelled out in the agenda; if you only need someone for one or two of the agenda items, let them know they don’t have to stay

During the meeting: Keep conversations on track and on time; if it’s appropriate, provide an opportunity for a dominator to lead a portion of the meeting but be clear about how much time will be spent on the topic. Notify the group when 5, then 1 minute is remaining to ensure an on-time wrap-up. Conduct round-robins allocating a maximum time per person to contribute and/or break the larger group into sub-groups, again, allocating a specific amount of time for sharing followed by a large group debrief.

After the meeting: Communicate key meeting points and next steps (don’t bother with transcription or inclusion of photos of all flip charts, etc., just high level minutes and actions) 

“Before we make a decision, I just have a few more questions…” The Analyzer (reserved, task-oriented)

Some meeting participants seem to get stuck in the analysis phase and can’t drop their critical lens and desire for detail long enough to make a decision. They also seem to use an over critical lens when looking at options. While this can serve as a useful balance in some groups, it can also suck all the oxygen out of a meeting.

Before the meeting: send a clear, well-structured agenda well in advance. Pre-work and any resources required to inform discussions are always welcomed by this behavioural type.

During the meeting: start your meetings on time and end a few minutes early; be firm on following the process; scribe accurately; be sure you’ve allocated additional time for the more complex discussions to allow for deeper analysis

After the meeting: document meeting results accurately

Understanding ‘who’ might be in the room will help you be somewhat ahead of the game in determining the right structure, timing and degree of interaction.


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Do you have a unique meeting challenge not covered by one of our blog posts? We’re always looking for different dilemmas to discuss in our articles!