When Meetings Follow the Rules

I recall a time I presented a topic to a firm’s practice group when the firm administrator was present. He sat off to the side where he could gain an advantage of being in the room while also witnessing the participation of others during his scrutiny of me. He is a conscientious rule follower, especially one desiring the meeting facilitator conduct efficient meetings. So he was particularly interested in discovering how I would hold true to my own agenda.

As the meeting facilitator it behooves me to demonstrate both flexibility and structure so everyone’s time is well-spent. Especially the introvert’s.

At the top of the presentation I announced the agenda and offered a deviation on the request of one of the members. Although this was  honoring the need of one of the members bold enough to request it, he immediately scowled. It wasn’t what he expected and any amount of time on the new topic was too long. I was not meeting his favor.

Meetings need to follow their agendas, regardless of the impulsive desires of an individual member. In the event all members present agree to the variation, there is reason to take a side bar, but without this, most members feel their time is being wasted. If the agenda is shared in advance, all are ready to address it. What isn’t shared in advance, when offered to introverts, will be met with resistance. They will not have had time to reflect on it, to prepare their thoughts and come to some conclusions. If a decision is to be made at the meeting on this impulsive topic, it will create tension.

I was once on a teleconference which was to run from 8-9pm. The final topic was presented at 8:57. I had expected it to be dropped from the agenda for sake of time. But instead, the presenters continued forward. Maybe because it’s easier to hang up on a conference call than to get up and walk out of a meeting, several of us did. Yet I usually have no problem leaving a face-to-face meeting if I believe I have followed the rules and others haven’t.

Meeting facilitators have an obligation to abide by the expectations. With a structure of follow through that supports conscientious behavior, we create ease of member participation. Although it may not always allow for the spontaneous activity and needs of the group members, if we check in first to discover the desires of the group we gain respect of those present. When meetings follow the rules we feel they are beneficial.

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On April 4th, 2012, posted in: facilitation, introverts, meetings by