1. Agree ways of working and behaving for every meeting
2. Keep the agenda narrow to 2-3 topics only
3. Keep the attendee list as small as possible
4. When people behave badly and refuse to change, remove them from the attendee list (and get instant respect from everyone else)
5. Ask for feedback
Want more? Watch the back story by clicking the linked picture below or continue reading below.
I was recently running a series of meetings last year where behaviours were less than ideal. These included people talking over each other, not listening to each other, not respecting my role as chair, not respecting people who were presenting — so just talking over, interrupting, asking questions at the wrong time, making personal attacks, being very competitive, being very negative, and just outright rude behaviours.
As much as I could have blamed the people for their “bad behaviours” I took responsibility as the chair and really looked at what I could control within the meeting.
Why were things going so wrong?
What was contributing to the behaviours?
What had happened is that over many months the agenda had become bloated. The invite list had tripled and the attendees really had a different understanding what the meeting was for compared to myself or the original members of the meeting. This meant people came in confused, felt unheard, felt that their issues were undervalued. Because they weren’t given space on the agenda they would fight to create that space.
So, I just took a step back and I said, “Well, I have to address these issues.”
What I did next is I relaunched the meeting and reframed the agenda of the meeting to be much narrower and clearer. I reduced the number of topics and agenda items from 12 to 3. Set really strict times for each agenda item. And allowed specific time for Q & A and discussion and we would go around the room to make sure that everyone was heard and prompt them to ask questions or to get feedback.
So the meeting went from something that was very loose to something super-structured. And I did sort of hesitate a little bit on that, thinking that that was going to be too structured. I also reduced the invite list by about 70%. And, obviously, that was controversial because some people didn’t want to be left out of the meeting. But for me the point of the meeting was to achieve certain objectives for which only certain people needed to attend to do so.
I also went and spoke individually to some of the people in the meeting and asked for their support for my role as chair and also to support better behaviours in the meeting of each other and themselves. I asked for respect when people were speaking, rather than talking over them and bringing up old war stories to attack people with.
Old stories don’t let us create a new story.
The most powerful thing I did was relaunch the forum and complete an exercise in that first forum on how do we want to feel and make others feel in our meeting. That really was about instilling responsibility for behaviour amongst everyone, not just myself as a chair or the leaders in the room but everyone who was attending.
The impact of these actions was really to take a ramshackle, aggressive meeting, where people felt anxious attending it, to a well run, respectful, enjoyable, easy meeting that people wanted to attend, an easy meeting for me to run, and a very easy meeting for people to speak up in.
And I had feedback from people saying, “I was beginning to feel anxious coming to that meeting, and now I feel like I really want to go to that meeting. And I’m not worried any more.”
Don’t be afraid to relaunch a meeting. Don’t be afraid to take people out of the meeting if they’re no longer suitable to attend, and the other thing I would say is take the time to discuss what behaviours you want in the meeting.
This is a great way to make everyone feel included, make everyone part of the story of that meeting, and also to take the temperature down if things are out of control.
I hope you found this really useful. My name is Beatrice Crocker, and I am the founder and lead coach of I’m Ready Now! Coaching and I am an executive coach that works with women who work in traditionally male dominated fields or have reached that job level where there are very few women in the peer group.
I want you to find more purpose, meaning, leadership and growth in your career. I’m passionate about helping women to be seen living their true purpose and who want to radiantly embrace their lives, find more meaning, purpose, and growth in their career.
If you’d like to work with me, book a complimentary consult today to get started.