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25 Sep 2014

Problematic Personality Types in Meetings

Meetings are one of the big three time wasters in the workplace. One reason, they easily get off track. Agendas help but retard problem-solving discussions. Another reason, there are two problematic personality types in meetings.

Managing problematic personality types in meetings can be hard.

The extroverted and confident can weaken meeting outcomes by given more weight to social influences than to knowledge.

These types make it hard to keep meetings on target and productive. However, subtle ways exist to manage this.

Two Problematic Personality Types in Meetings

Jay Eskenazi’s article, “How to Fix the 5 Most Common Mistakes with Focus Groups” (UX Magazine, May 13, 2011), excellently summarizes the commonly known personality challenges in focus groups. Extroverted and alpha personalities, usually male, often create lopsided fact-finding discussions.

These same personality-related challenges exist in everyday work meetings. Yet, focus groups’ facilitators receive far more training in managing these challenges than business managers do.

In “Bring Out the Best in Your Team” (Harvard Business Review, September 2014 edition), Bryan L. Bonner (University of Utah) and Alexander R. Bolinger (Pennsylvania State University), go further, stating these challenges, if unmanaged, can unravel tasks around which managers are trying to rally their teams. Their research showed it’s in “large part because the most confident, outgoing people get the most airtime” and produced the worst performances.

Managing Meetings with Problematic Personalities

Bonner’s and Bolinger’s solution was simple, subtle and effective:

. . . team members should discuss the knowledge each brings to the table, that changes the criterion for power from social influence to informational influence . . . and help members tune out irrelevant factors – not just confidence and extroversion but also status, experience, tenure, assertiveness, gender and race.

Managers can do this without stating what they are doing. Effectively, an unconscious shift of focus and power occurs. As I consistently emphasize in my blog, managers would do well to learn some basic anchoring techniques to orient their teams’ thinking. Word choice matters. Bad choice can demotivate teams, leaving ignorant managers wondering and incorrectly attributing cause elsewhere.


3 Responses

  1. Spot on, as usual.

    And: while it’s true that static agendas tend to stifle, dynamic agendas stimulate. Fleck’s Synergy Method is one way to introduce a dynamic agenda AND obviate most of the problems with ‘difficult’ people.

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