On the subject of meetings and dealing with dysfunctional behaviours…

On the subject of meetings and dealing with dysfunctional behaviours – HBR
My own experience over several assignments in Leadership Training, Organization Transformation and Quality program implementation have allowed me to observe first hand some of my own facilitation pitfalls that I continuously strive to correct – some of which are listed here:
A relevant agenda sufficiently in advance of the meeting, objectives and what is the outcome or takeaway the attendees can expect to take out of the meeting. If there is pre-work ensure that the attendees have enough time to complete it before the meeting.

Adults learn and assimilate information at differing pace and speed – therefore do not assume that everyone in the meeting gets it at exactly the same time – some may be slower and may tend to get irritated/frustrated if they feel you are going too fast.

Those ‘Hijackers’ or dysfunctional team members who seem bent on disrupting the meeting at all costs usually come in a few flavours:
a. The Stand Up Comic – full of jokes and funny anecdotes
b. The renegade who resents authority
c. The self-opinionated interrupter
d. The shrinking violet (who shuts down and completely withdraws from the meeting)

What is your role as a facilitator in dealing with the dysfunctional behaviours that may be taking your meeting off track:
At the start of the meeting gain agreement from all participants on the ‘code of conduct’ everyone will live by for the duration of the meeting.
Scribe the code of conduct on a flip chart and pin it to the wall for all to see when any of the codes are being violated – this self policing is far better than any facilitation on your part. Facilitate the brainstorming of the codes to include statements like: No interruptions, no side discussions/arguments, respect for everyone’s time, avoid personal comments – keep everything focused on the issue and not on the individual, etc.

Use appropriate facilitation behaviours during the course of the meeting:
Bringing in – to encourage silent/quiet members to participate and get involved in the discussions by calling them out, seeking their opinions, thoughts, etc

Shutting out – to control the discussions you may need to use some shutting out behaviours from time to time to ensure the hijackers don’t wreck your momentum.

Use clarifying behaviours (seeking information, giving information, testing understanding and summarizing) with the team members to ensure everyone on the same page.

Remember the three C’s of good facilitation:
A. Condone – forgive initial disruptive behaviours as some individuals come in with a lot of personal emotional baggage that they need to divest before they can settle in

B. Correct – if you believe you have allowed enough time to settle in and the individual is still being disruptive, gently point out the disruptive behaviour and the effect it is having on the meeting.

C. Confront – when the initial condoning and correcting fail to arrest the dysfunctional behaviour, by all means confront the individual (preferably in a private setting, but if unavailable, whenever you believe the timing to be right).
Go ahead and confront. I have done my fair share of turning attendees out of meetings and training sessions if I felt they were being disruptive to the overall session and that the only alternative was to remove them from the mix.

Body language – there is a lot that can be read into this science, however the basic few behaviours never fail while facilitating:
Maintain eye contact – rotate across the team
Listen attentively with sincerity – use reflection/summarizing to demonstrate active listening
Maintain a measured tone of voice and avoid shouting
Use reflecting and relaying techniques to reflect questions back or relay them to another participant. This encourages participation as well.

All the best with your Meetings!

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