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Flex Your Meeting Muscles with Versatility

Attending meetings can impact employees in numerous ways. At their best, meetings deliver needed information, strategic direction and clarity for participants. At their worst, meetings can waste time, reduce productivity and cause irritation for those involved. Participants without formal leadership roles may feel helpless about meetings that consume large amounts of time without producing real results.
Planning and preparation are the keys to overcoming common hindrances to effective meetings.  A previous blog looked at how leaders try and prevent Style-driven meeting disruptions.  However, those in formal leadership roles are not the only source of influence over meeting productivity. Everyone in a meeting can take on an informal leadership role, benefiting themselves and the team by preparing specific strategies for addressing others’ destructive tendencies.
Attendees without formal leadership roles must often be more creative and relational in their tactics, as they do not have control over elements such as meeting agendas, timeframes and presentation materials. Despite these limitations, discerning participants can do much to make meetings more productive and efficient.

Develop a Strategy for Each SOCIAL STYLE

Understanding the behavioral preferences of colleagues and applying Style-specific techniques is the essence of Versatility. Being Versatile is a great way to improve the productivity of meetings. Here are specific suggestions for people of each Style.

To help Driving Style teammates, participants can come prepared to explain the strategic significance of the topic at hand and any input they provide. This can head-off the Driving Style’s tendency to dismiss issues that they feel are not primary to a discussion. Also, simply clarifying the desired outcome of the discussion and expressing a desire to achieve resolution can help put the Driving Style person in a productive mood.

When working alongside Expressive Style teammates in meetings, co-workers should be prepared to take slight detours from major topics. The Expressive person may get sidetracked and want the opportunity to explore what he or she believes to be an important, if somewhat tangential, topic.  Allowing some flexibility before moving back to the agenda can allow Expressives to satisfy their Style need while avoiding their confrontational Backup Behavior.  Using Active Listening techniques such as clarifying, confirming and summarizing can make a major positive impact on keeping Expressive teammates on track.

Identifying an Amiable person’s Backup Behavior can be a challenge, because it often looks like acceptance. But this person’s acquiescence may signal a conflict in hiding. If you enter the meeting aware of this tendency, you can avoid Backup Behavior by taking time to recognize the Amiable person’s contributions and validate their concerns. Just the act of recognizing such concerns will go a long way to minimizing conflict and boosting buy-in.

To avoid the Analytical Backup Behavior of withdrawing and avoiding, other participants can focus on rational arguments, rather than their own interpersonal needs. Setting aside one’s own desire for quick results (Driving), creativity and recognition (Expressive) or camaraderie and safety (Amiable) and focusing on making a well-informed and thoughtful decision will make the Analytical person comfortable.  Showing patience with Analyticals’ long pauses and presenting them with one point to consider at a time can also help to keep these participants engaged and contributing.

The examples above illustrate that a wide range of creative solutions and meeting-preparation tactics can enhance meeting productivity.  Using your Versatility skills can help overcome Backup Behavior, whether our own or that of the others in our meetings.

Learn more about the four SOCIAL STYLEs. 

Dave Ingram is a Project Coordinator at TRACOM Group. His writing has been featured in The Motley Fool, The Houston Chronicle, NYSE Moneysense and Yahoo.

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