Help for the Meeting-Weary Manager

Most of us have found ourselves working on a team at one time or another. That means we have been asked to attend, and even participate, in lots of meetings. Unfortunately, few of us found these meetings to be particularly effective. Many in fact are a complete waste of valuable time and resources.

The difficulty with most meetings is that they are typically planned and run by extroverts, who do not take into account the needs of the introverts. Why is this important? Because a key diffentiating characteristic between extroverts and introverts is in the way they process information.

Extroverts will tend to "think out loud." They verbally walk themselves through the thinking process. Introverts however want to process new information on their own, in their heads, before commenting or vocalizing their thoughts.

And that's just the beginning of the problem. Extroverts do not take into account the needs of the Introverts or the way in which they prefer to process the information to be shared or discussed. Because Introverts require time on their own to process information, they are not prepared (or willing) to make decisions on items that are only being discussed fo the first time in a current meeting. All too often Extroverts bring a new topic up in a meeting, even if it's not on the agenda, and expect everyone to get engaged and act on it right away. Because the Introverts are processing the new information, they may not comment. To the Extrovert, no news is good news and this only means the Introverts must be on board.

Decision-making bias is highlighted when the meeting is controlled by the Extrovert. Extroverts view the quieter more contemplative members as:

"I just assumed that they weren't interested."
"I thought they had nothing to share or say.
"I figured they were a bit stuck up, stand-offish."

But let's not blame the Extroverts for all our meeting problems. Because Introverts prefer to process new information before speaking, they may plan the agenda and arrive at meetings thinking their decisions are foregone conclusions without ever engaging others for input or discussion. In fact, if the normally self-sufficient and reserved Introvert had his way, all meetings would occur by telephone or web conferencing or even email. The electronic meeting minimize the extra-curricular comments and diversions that occur when you put a bunch of Extroverts in a room. But like the Introvert who needs time to process, Extroverts need the opportunity to talk out loud and see who is doing the talking.

Now let's take a peek inside the Introverts' heads. What are they thinking about their group-oriented, outgoing Extroverted colleagues?

"They're all blow-hards."

"Not one of them has a clear thought in their heads."

"They don't know what they're talking about."

You can see how valuable insights might be ignored or interpersonal conflicts arise when personality and behavioral styles aren't considered. When other people's behavior patterns do not match our own, it is not unusual for us to begin to "make up stuff" about why others agree or disagree.

Don't fall into the trap of making stuff up about others without even knowing you're doing it. Understand your personal style, then understand how style differences drive and bias decisions.

Ira S. Wolfe is founder of Success Performance Solutions (http://www.super-solutions.com), a consulting firm specializing in helping employers fit the right employees to the job, on the team, with the company culture. He has also authored two books, Business Values and Motivators and The Perfect Labor Storm. He is also the a frequent guest on TV and Radio Cable shows as well as the subject of several interviews for the likes of Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek Online. You can contact Ira at iwolfe@super-solutions.com or 800.803.4303.

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