We’ve all attended bad meetings. Meetings that take too long and that have one person monopolizing the conversation the whole time. I posted this guide recently on LinkedIn that some people could utilize in a meeting to decide whether or not they should speak up and when. Some people loved it and others seemed angry. I remember the moment Courtland James, one of our executive coaches at Cortex, gave it to me to review. I said to him, “Wow, this could really help some of the meetings I have heard about that are kind of out of control. One person can kind of take over the meeting and doesn’t allow others to share, much less invite them to share or contribute. Boy, this could help those people have a guide to know when it is appropriate to speak up or stay silent.” So I posted it.
I checked at the end of the day to see if anyone found it helpful. Boy, did I get an earful. There were comments like:
“I think we have to be careful with pieces like this. I agree with what it’s trying to say but it only applies to a specific personality type. I often see the opposite happening. The quiet person in the corner coaching themselves out of talking when actually they have the most important input out of everyone.“
And more that sounded like:
“R.I.P. Collaboration and innovation… do you think the greatest inventions came out right first time? Some of the best ideas I’ve ever heard have came from some of the most unlikely sources.”
So I would respond with something like:
“Thanks for your comments. My experience as a coach is that many times the quiet person in the corner of the room is not speaking up because the person who should be using this model is constantly interrupting them and not stopping talking long enough to ask that quiet person what they think about an issue”.
It didn’t matter how I responded to comments or how much effort I took to explain, some new folks to seeing the post got clearly upset. They really thought I would want to silence people in meetings and stop the flow of ideation and innovation that needs to happen. Made me kind of laugh! Anyone who knows me has experienced me displaying one of the highest ideation scores we’ve tested and that rounding, where you give each person a chance to share in a meeting or session, is a basic principle and encouraged practice that we teach at Cortex.
I changed the post.
I kept the model up but added this:
“Explanation of this model: There are people in meetings that do not listen to others. They interrupt the ideation and innovation process by talking over people and not being the least bit curious about what anyone other then themselves have to say. If that person has authority you end up with a meeting where no one feels safe to talk and they become completely disengaged in the process. THIS MODEL IS FOR THAT PERSON ONLY!”
That seemed to help, although, a few folks commented without reading the new header. I had definitely touched a nerve. After 48 likes, 18 comments and more than 3,000 views, in a few days, I realized that people felt strongly on both sides of this issue.
One side seemed to be applauding the model that would allow those that didn’t let others speak find a method that they could use to know when to speak or stay silent. Others seemed to be on the side of letting anyone speak, anytime, for as long as they need or want to, although I am sure that wasn’t their point. I think they were just trying to stand up for the shy types in a meeting that upon seeing this model may get even more anxious about speaking up in a group.
My thought is that the model is a solid one for keeping us all in check to be sure that what we are saying in a meeting is relevant and at the appropriate times. This is a general model used at an agenda driven meeting to keep the meeting on track and on time.
WARNING: This is NOT for ideation sessions where you are working to innovate through an issue. Being too careful about speaking up in those will kill the creative in everyone – especially yourself.
The rules of engagement we encourage all teams to use in meetings, are ideal for creating a trust-building environment where all people feel heard at appropriate times and in appropriate ways.
Let me know what you think since many of you have been through the Cortex Leading a Winning program. Does this model do more harm than good to the team environment or does it help keep certain people in “check” during meetings? I’d love to hear your feedback. Send me a note or go to my LinkedIn page and join in the conversation.