Always empower your participants, but learn to control challenging personality types to avoid problem meetings.

The deliverable or decision is theirs, not yours.  Remember to manage politics by removing ideas from the individual participant and turning it over to the entire group.  It’s not WHO is right, rather WHAT is right that we seek.  All ideas belong to all participants—never to an individual. While Ground Rules help mitigate some behavior, firmer action is required by select individuals.  Each is discussed below.

Firm But Flexible, How to Manage Personality Types in Problem Meetings

When erratic or distracting behavior occurs, prepare to control it.  While ‘Ground Rules’ may help contain much of the non-malicious behavior, additional interventions are required for select personality types.  Here are some suggestions proven to help during problem meetings.

Problem Meetings

How to Manage Personality Types in Problem Meetings

NAME CHARACTERISTICS WHAT TO DO
Attacker Launches verbal, personal attacks on other group members and/ or facilitator; constantly ridicules a specific point of view. Stand between two people fighting; stop attacks; use additional ground rules 
to control.
Backseat Driver Keeps telling the session leader or facilitator what to do—or not do; attempts to control the meeting by changing the methodology. Listen to some comments—they may be good; never turn over control; talk to them during breaks; enforce scope.
Broken Record Brings up the same point repeatedly; constantly tries to focus discussion of this issue; can prevent group from moving ahead to new items even if ready. The broken record needs to be heard.  Document their input but do not make it an open item until later in the workshop.
Busybody Ducking in and out of meetings, does not ask subordinates to hold calls, gives impression of being too busy (and therefore important) to devote full attention to the meeting and the group. Deal with like the latecomer or early leaver; try to establish rules to control during preparation.  Allow frequent bio-breaks for people to react to their electronic leashes.
Dropout Constantly engaged with their “crackberry” or laptop; expresses disapproval or dislike by ignoring the proceedings; may read, do unrelated paperwork to avoid getting engaged in the session.  Caution, a doodler is not dropping out—they may be a horizontal thinker. Use laser focus so that they know that you see them.  During a break, talk to them. Do NOT publicly call out their name and ask for participation.

Encourage your culture to embrace “topless meetings” that prohibit laptops and smart devices.

Early Leaver Drains group’s energy and morale by leaving meeting before its end. Handle as a latecomer; do not stop the meeting for one person.
Head Shaker Actively expresses disapproval through body language and nonverbal cues such as rolling eyes, shaking head, crossing and uncrossing arms, sighing, etc.  Covertly may influence a group to reject an idea. Approach the head shaker.  Use open hands to ask them to explain a viable, counter position.  Do not allow these nonverbal cues to continue unnoticed.
Interpreter Always speaks for someone else, usually without invitation to do so; restates ideas or meanings and frequently distorts it in the process. First get original speaker to confirm without embarrassing or putting on the spot and then pass the “talking stick” o the interpreter for their own point of view.
Interrupter Jumps into the discussion and cuts off someone else’s comments; acts impatient, too excited, or concerned that own ideas will not be acknowledged. Stop them immediately to protect the source; always get back to them but do not allow them to interrupt; they will learn.
Know-it-all Uses credentials, age, seniority, etc, to argue a point; focuses group attention on opinion and status as opposed to the real issue. Often a supervisor or manager; write it down to satisfy and challenge them about relevancy to the holarchy and for evidence.
Latecomer Arrives late to meetings, makes a show of arrival, and insists on catching up and stopping the group midstream. Use 50 minute meeting intervals.  Enforce “Be Here Now” ground rule.  Do not disturb meeting.  Review during a break, not during the meeting.
Loudmouth(Monopolizers) Talks too often and too loudly; dominates the discussion; seemingly impossible to shut up; may be someone who has a higher rank than other group members. Record input if on topic.  If not, direct conversation away; stand in front of person for a short time; talk to during break.
Negative  Nancy Voiced skepticism, shrouded with genuine concern. Use the “What—So What—Now What” tool.  They may know something significant. Meet them privately before meeting.
Quiet Person While it is true that we are not going to convert quiet people into aggressive extroverts who dominate a meeting, there are steps that facilitators can take to transform the velocity of contributions from quieter participants. 1. Interview your participants

2. Breakout sessions

3. Non-verbal solicitation

4. Reinforce during break

5. Round-robins & Post-It note approaches

Sleeper Challenged to stay awake, especially during late afternoon sessions. Ideally, open a window.  Practically, walk around them if possible or lead a quick ergonomic break.
Uninvited Show up without an invitation Explain and enforce the role of Observer, noting they may speak during breaks.
Whisperer Constantly whispering during meetings, holding offside conversations; upstages facilitator or session leader, as well as other group members. Standing close to the whisperer(s) will stop their conversation.  Enforce one conversation at a time with the entire group.

Become Part of the Solution While You Improve Your Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology Skills

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Furthermore, our Professional Facilitation curriculum immerses students in the responsibilities and dynamics of an effective facilitator and methodologist. Because nobody is smarter than everybody, attend an MG RUSH Professional Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology workshop offered around the world, see MG RUSH for a current schedule.

Additionally, go to the Facilitation Training Store to access our in-house resources. Finally, you will discover numerous annotated agendas, break timers, and templates.

In conclusion, we dare you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Monthly Facilitation blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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