Monday, April 8, 2013

I Win Every Meeting

Meetings are slanted to go in my favor. In most cases they are predestined to go my way even before I walk into the room. It's not that I manipulate the process ahead of time so I can be more effective than the person sitting next to me. The reality is that the odds are in my favor so that I'm going to come out on top...and there's precious little the introvert next to me can do about it.

Real Time Thinkers
I spend a large part of my day in meetings. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Meetings are how team members communicate, bounce ideas off one another, strategize options, and support one another during stressful times. Meetings, for the most part, are good.

My mind moves fast in meetings. Just to clarify, 'fast' does not always equal 'effectively.' But for one reason or another my uber-extroverted personality combined with my brain that seems to be racing along like Fernando Alonso on a Formula1 circuit automatically positions me well for the outcomes I'm hoping for in meetings. 

How is that possible?

Am I a loud mouth that forces my position on my colleagues? Do I bully others into accepting my position? Maybe I'm such a talented salesman that I missed my calling and should have been running a used car empire instead of spending the last twenty years in healthcare?

The truth is that our world of non-stop meetings favors real time thinkers.

Introverted Thinkers
The opposite of my behavior in meetings is what is displayed by those that need time to process through what is being said. They aren't willing to jump in to the conversation in the blink of an eye, nor do they typically feel comfortable speaking out in group settings. This group sometimes prefers to offer an opinion once the meeting has been completed, and typically only to the meeting leader. That's okay...but not if the goal is to have their insights become part of the group's awareness.

Introverted or reflective thinkers are not necessarily prepared to respond in the moment, which can do a disservice not only to them, but to the group as well.

The Meeting Leader's Job
The challenge for the person leading the meetings we all attend (which in some cases means we are the ones leading) is to ensure a proper balance of managing the real time thinkers while simultaneously drawing out the introverted thinkers. Not an easy task.

Each person should participate, otherwise they shouldn't be there. It simply doesn't cut it to say that due to being an introvert they are allowed to offer their perspective after the meeting has ended and they've had a chance to cycle through an analysis-paralysis session away from the group. 

Each person should also not over participate, otherwise they shouldn't be there either. It simply doesn't cut it to say that due to being an extroverted real time thinker that their ideas have to be the ones that the group is forced to accept. 

Meeting leaders need to ensure everyone participates. Period.

How About You
I bet you go to a bunch of meetings each week. Do you notice who seems to be a more effective person in those settings? Is it the quiet, thoughtful one; or, is it the one who seems to be "have it all together?" Which one are you?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


  1. Jay,

    I am from Tampa as well! What a great article! As you, my days are full of meetings. In my experience the key to successful meetings is to maintain the participants focus on the subject and make the meetings less autocratic and more participatory.

  2. I disagree with the statement, "Each person should participate, otherwise they shouldn't be there," where participation equates to being heard. I have been tied in to many meetings where seemingly everyone talks and no one listens. Those who speak, occasionally seem to do so just for the sake of being heard, and speaking does not equate to conversation. Perhaps the so called "introvert" (I also disagree here - someone who does not talk in a given meeting is not necessarily an introvert)is necessary to ensure everyone is heard and to process disparate thoughts into coordinated action that is more easily accomplished on a one-on-one basis after a meeting. I agree that no one should be silent in all meetings all the time, but I think there is value to being the silent one in some meetings and the vocal one in others depending on where your efforts are needed most.

    1. I think you are I are in more agreement than you think. The issues you raise point to the failure of the meeting leader to manage the participation of both personalities. Poor management will quickly move a meeting into a state of chaos.

      Many thanks for your comment...good stuff!

  3. As a more introverted person who has been told at times to participate more, I stand by the adage: I have never learned much from hearing myself......

    That said one method of increasing participation is to circulate an agenda ahead of time in the form of questions. It allows me to prepare more effectively than entering a meeting with no information ahead of time.

    1. Great point! That agenda is clearly the meeting leader's responsibility, and as I tried (probably unsuccessfully!) was to point out that regardless of one's personality it is the meeting leader who must ensure each meeting is a success.

      Thanks for the comment.

  4. I also tend to listen more than talk in meetings (and I am not an introvert). I have observed over my career, especially as a junior member of a meeting, that I can learn, and later research, more about what's being discussed when I step back and listen to everyone else's input. Every meeting I call, I ensure we have an agenda. It keeps the meeting on track, gives a person time during preliminaries to decide what they want their contribution to be on a certain subject, and let's people review the agenda afterwards if more research and discussion needs to happen. If a final plan of action is being made in a meeting - there should have already been discussion previously, in and outside a meeting, of the best route to go.

    1. I wish you ran all of the meetings in my organization! I love it! Thanks for the comment.

  5. I agree with your point of how important the meetings leaders job is.
    As you said, fast does not always equal effective. Your comments, however, even in the summing up seem to be prejudicial in favour of those "have it all together". And by that I presume you mean "Those who can rush to a decision without fully examining a problem".
    I have seen the results of any number of 'Decision' meetings that have been driven by a charismatic ultra-extrovert into a future train wreck that could have been avoided by a little more time and examination.

    1. I love your comment. I was hoping to point out that there are dangers with both personalities...and as you very appropriately said, sometimes the quick decisions create havoc!

      Great stuff!

  6. Jay, interesting exploration here. I wonder if Nancy Kline's work on the Thinking Environment is food for thought?

    Also, I think we're touching on it when we mention agenda, but there's too often an unspoken expectation of what the meeting is for. Is it to make decisions quickly? Is it to elicit insights? Is it to disseminate information?

    So perhaps rather than looking at introverts/extroverts a better starting point is clarity on purpose and the desired engagement from the group. From there preference, inclusion, responsibility can be clearer from the start and are much easier for the meeting leader to focus on. Perhaps then it's about "We win every meeting"?

    BTW this article from Forbes this week on "Ambiverts" might add something further to this disussion:-

    1. David...thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. I agree...the planning piece on the front end is essential if any meeting is going to be effective. Once that plan is clear, the appropriate people (regardless of personality type) can be included, and we realistically can achieve "we win."

      Great perspective!

  7. Thankfully I don't attend all the meetings now that I run my own firm but in the past I often found the quiet person (of which was not one) often times made a few profound comments that were impactful and carried tremendous weight with the group.

    When I run sales meetings now with clients, I find that the key is to be quiet far more, gather information and build on what they say to create a "win" for both of us. I find if I go in with and agenda things never turn out optimally for either of us.

    1. Thanks for the perspective Jeff. It sounds like early on you had some introverts who were acutally willing to participate in meetings. Good stuff! They typically do have lots to share...if they'll share it.

      Many thanks for the comment.

  8. Well I truly liked reading it. This article offered by you is very useful for proper planning.