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Keeping Meetings On Track

We all have been in meetings with certain people who get our blood pressure to rise or just make us feel what a waste of time. Here are some of those people and hints on how you can maintain keep the meeting on track without coming across as a dictator or inept leader.

Non-Stop Nora.
Nora often begins on the agenda item, but then gets sidetracked on some other topic and is off and running. You think there is no really good way to tell her she's off base and wasting everyone's time without embarrassing her. There is "no really good way" unless you have an agenda. With an agenda it' simple. You say:

"Nora, that's a good point you're making, but right now we're discussing agenda point two. I see that Joe wants to make a comment. Or, "That really deals with agenda item four. Can you hold that thought and we'll get back to you." You've been frank but you haven't zapped anyone publicly.

Silent Sam.
On the opposite side is Sam, who is present because he can make a valuable contribution. It's just that he doesn't talk either because he's shy, frightened or intimidated. Be very careful how you draw him out. Avoid putting him on the spot with a direct question. as: "What do you think, Sam?" You're much wiser to phrase it as:

"Sam, as a department head, you've had experience with this. What suggestions can you make? Would you like to make them now or perhaps think about it?" This technique lets Sam make the decision on whether or not he wishes to talk and when. The "Sams" of the world may need some extra effort but it's vitally important that contribute to decisions that can have an impact on departmental or team performance.

Obstinate Ollie.
Ollie is a compulsive arguer. If someone suggests "eight" he will counter with "No, I believe it should be 12." Don't take it personally. Perhaps, he just likes to be a devil's advocate. Let Ollie have his say, but then ask for the group's opinion. Someone usually will respond and get the meeting back on track. As leader, try not to get into the fray, but let the group handle the situation.

Marcia Zidle, the 'people smarts' coach, works with business leaders to quickly solve their people management headaches so they can concentrate on their #1 job to grow and increase profits. She offers free help through Leadership Briefing, a weekly e-newsletter with practical tips on leadership style, employee motivation, recruitment and retention and relationship management. Subscribe by going to and get the bonus report "61 Leadership Time Savers and Life Savers". Marcia is the author of the What Really Works Handbooks resources for managers on the front line and the Power-by-the-Hour programs fast, convenient, real life, affordable courses for leadership and staff development. She is available for media interviews, conference presentations and panel discussions on the hottest issues affecting the workplace today. Contact Marcia at 800-971-7619.

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