Common Meeting Problems

Finishing on Time

Meetings can run overtime and consequently many agenda items can get left behind or they don’t get adequate attention.  There are various reasons why meetings run overtime, some of which include:

  • The meeting did not start on time
  • Agenda was not based on importance thus devoting too much time on items of lesser importance
  • The meeting flow was not managed well
  • Agenda had too much on it to cover in one meeting

How to finish on time

  • Start your meeting On Time
  • Designate a timekeeper to monitor time of each item to be discussed and communicate times with participants
  • Place topics of importance or more discussion at the top of agenda

 Inability to Make Decisions

Sometimes meetings drag on as participants struggle to make decisions or reach a consensus.  The responsibility for making sure consensus is reached lies squarely on the leader.  Some reasons why groups seem unable to consensus include:

  • Goals and outcomes are not made clear
  • Certain participants get side tracked on peripheral issues
  • Philosophical issues divide people

How to facilitate groups to make a decision

  • Create and convey goals and outcomes for agenda topic that require decisions.
  • Seek out or present alternatives supported by the data
  • Assist participants getting through a block or impasse by restating the initial questions and regaining focus

 Attendance

When key stakeholders or influential participants do not attend, decisions that are made may be questioned later.  Idea and collaboration are limited and other participants may become frustrated.  Some strategies to ensure attendance at meetings include:

  • Diagnose the problem for the absence and have discussion with those members accordingly
  • Ensure that your meetings are worthy of peoples time by utilizing the practices mentioned earlier

Dominant Participants

Dominant participants can stifle creativity, collaboration, and problem solving but they often have good ideas.  Utilize their ideas by guiding their energies and allow others to contribute.  Some types of Dominant Participants include:

  • The Windbag:  comments too frequently, dominate discussions and is often the first person to speak on issues

How to Handle:

  •  Limit remark time at the onset of the meeting
  •  Target questions or comments to other members by using their name
  •  Limit leadership responsibility to this member
  • The Rambler: speaks a great deal, often gets off track in remarks

How to Handle:

  •  Limit remark time at the onset of the meeting
  •  When participant pauses, redirect and get back on track
  •  Consider making this person a recorder thus neutralizing their time for remarks
  •  Limit leadership responsibility to this member
  • The Homesteader: takes on a point of view or makes a decision and is then reluctant, unable or unwilling to budge or consider alternatives

How to Handle:

  •  Utilize hints for collaboration and consensus building
  •  Use data and facts to reassure the point and redirect

Silent Participants

Silent participants have different reasons for being that way.  Some people are reticent by nature, others are afraid of ridicule or dismissal.  It is you goal as the leader to engage everyone.  Some Silent Participants include:

  • The Mummy:  reluctant or unwilling to participate.  Reasons may include; confusion of the issues, feeling or inferiority or superiority, indifference.

How to Handle:

  • Give the participant a role or duty
  • Ask direct questions using their name

Lack of Follow-Through on Tasks

The effectiveness of a meeting can be assessed in the outcomes.  If leaders do not follow-through on decisions, action plans, or issues after the meeting, then there will be questions as to the value of the meetings and your integrity.  Tools and techniques to ensure follow-through include:

  • Be clear at the end of the meeting in regards to who is responsible to each task
  • Develop written action plans
  • Designate Point Persons for tasks and delegate appropriately
  • Set deadlines and check in with point persons and participants to ensure tasks are being accomplished
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