a meeting pro. You set goals. You come on time. You come prepared.
You even know how to deal with meeting bullies. But what about
dealing with meeting saboteurs? Like it or not, sometimes
we run into problems in meetings, deliberately or unintentionally
caused by others. Here are three oft-seen meeting sabotage
scenarios and step-by-step plans for how to deal with them.
Problem: The Two-Faced Meeting Monster
The goal of the meeting is to get approval of your plan. You've done your homework
and know whom you'll have to persuade once inside the meeting room and what
the main objections will be. You also know whom you can turn to for support.
When the meeting begins, one of your supporters not only speaks against your
idea, but uses an objection you haven't heard before. What do you do?
||Ask for specifics. If the issue behind the objection is real,
your colleague will be able to qualify his concerns with
more details. Keep asking for specifics until you've got
a handle on what you're really dealing with, using phrases
such as, "Can you give me an example of the situation
you think we'll get into that you want us to avoid?"
Paraphrase what you hear back to your colleague so that
you can be sure you're addressing his objection.
||Respond to the objections in the order you choose. Answer
those objections for which you'd prepared prior to addressing the others.
||Finally, if you can, address the new objection with the information
you have. If you need to get more information, schedule another meeting.
Before leaving the meeting, however, make the following statement: "I've
addressed all of the objections raised with the exception of X. If I can
satisfactorily address this issue, will we be able to move forward with
the plan?" Your goal is to get a yes from the group. If you get a no, you'll
need to go back to step 2. If you get a yes, move forward to step 5.
||Immediately upon returning to your desk, send an e-mail with
a summary of what took place in the meeting. Include a
statement that confirms the one outstanding issue and
when you'll address it. Remind everyone in this e-mail
that the plan should move forward once this issue is addressed.
Problem: The Swindling Scribe
No one likes being a scribe in a meeting. But there is a certain amount of power
in it. The person who takes the notes and records the outcomes of meeting decisions
ultimately decides how the decision is recorded. This can be a problem when
a scribe misrepresents a decision taken in the meeting to reflect his own views.
||Speak up as soon as you notice the error. If you're using
a whiteboard to record meeting notes or decisions, keep an eye on it and
voice your concerns in the room. If the notes are distributed after the
meeting, review the notes and make the needed changes as quickly as possible.
||Assume it's a clerical error. Whether the mistake is deliberate
or not, your need is to correct the error, not to lay
blame. Whether in person or by e-mail, lead with, "In
reviewing the notes from the meeting, what's been recorded
seems different than my recollection of what took place."
||Clearly define the necessary change, "Specifically, the third
item should reflect that we decided to go with option one, which would be
to…. We need to remove the paragraph that begins with ABC and replace it
Problem: Topic Takeover
topic listed in the agenda says one thing, the meeting leader's
interpretation is another, leaving you unprepared. This can
be a simple mistake; a project update meeting in which you
believe you'll be receiving information about the status of
a project turns out to be a meeting in which the group is
expected to present ways to update the project, for instance.
Or, the mistake could be a deliberate attempt to discredit
you; you've been asked to present your budget to higher-ups,
yet in the meeting you're continuously questioned about the
strategy you endorse rather than the numbers themselves.
As soon as you discover the meeting is about something other
than what you had planned, explain your interpretation to the group. "I
believe that I misunderstood the nature of this meeting…." You now have
three options for proceeding:
||If you feel you can switch gears and are prepared to continue
with the meeting, do so. If you need to retrieve some key information that
is close by, excuse yourself briefly to get it.
||If you're completely unprepared and feel it's reasonable to
do so, ask to reschedule the meeting. If you've stated your case clearly
most people will understand.
||In some situations, it may not be possible to delay the meeting
or even to fetch your critical documents. Since you have no choice, do the
best you can, but be sure to follow up afterward. When you return to your
office, you may think of a few relevant points and be able to put your hands
on some facts and figures. Send a follow-up e-mail. "As a follow up
to our meeting, I've prepared the following additional information which
should be considered when moving ahead with XYZ."
To Five Tips for Mitigating Meeting Sabotage
Keep your cool. This maintains your credibility
and denies a saboteur the satisfaction of seeing you
2. Don't lay blame.
It doesn't matter who did what – all that matters is
that your credibility stays intact, so take the moral
3. Speak up. Asking
questions to learn more about the situation or explaining
your situation in a proactive way puts you back in control
of your meeting experience.
Share your end goal. It's hard for people
to argue with you if your suggestion focuses on having
a productive meeting or not wasting their time.
and fake, then save. Sometimes the politics involved
will force you to fly by the seat of your pants. Save
yourself by following up after this kind of meeting
once you've had a chance to pull yourself together.
1.The Wharton Center for Applied