The complexity of a leadership role is easy to see when you have meetings. People are not the same, and we don’t experience things in the same way. If the manager cannot take the different personality types into account, the meeting does not necessarily lead to the desired outcome, and the manager does not necessarily understand what went wrong. Think how you as manager lead people in meetings.
Different types of people deal with information, the concept of time, what they do, and what others do in different ways. In order for a meeting to succeed, all types of people should be taken into account, from the brave at heart to the quieter introverts. (NOTE: Before you can be a good manager at a meeting, get your meeting formalities implemented.)
Impulsive types are those who quickly announce things as they walk past you in the corridor, who talk a lot in meetings and who have the answers to the questions before they are even asked. These extroverts deal with things through emotion or fact – others make quick decisions because this feels right or this sounds good, looks good, or I think this will work.
Other extroverts want all the facts on the table fast. They may not be familiar with the material in advance, which is a little contradictory to the fact that they want facts. But at their fast pace, they do things at the moment they’re required, not by preparing in advance. After getting enough information, they want a quick solution on the table – be bright, be brief, be gone. In other words, their motto is “Be accurate, sharp, short, and quick”.
In addition to the emotional-and-factual nature of the extroverts, the meetings usually have their counterparts – emotional or factual introverts. As introverts, they do not voice their own opinions exuberantly or draw attention to themselves as intensely as the extroverts. They wait for their turn – and get frustrated if it never comes. An introverted person wants to focus on the facts in the meeting, and gets frustrated if others are talking about their feelings, or even worse, about their personal affairs. Their frustration can be seen in their abrupt manner. They can bring everybody down to earth by blurting out let’s stay on the subject or let’s get back to business, which can make others feel offended. They don’t mean to offend anyone, they just want to stay on the subject, get everything done, deal with the issues and make decisions.
The emotional introverts, in turn, worry about how others feel and whether the atmosphere is good at the meeting; is everyone ok or is the atmosphere uncomfortable? They can be anxious if they feel that others don’t feel good, even though there is no reason for it, it’s just how they just feel. The emotional introverts wait for the longest and most patiently for their turn, and are sometimes left behind when others take up space and time. They do not say it out loud, but they’re silently having a meltdown. If they feel their voice has not been heard, they will not necessarily show it, except by not putting the decisions taken in the meeting into effect after the meeting, or by otherwise not having a positive attitude about the outcome of the meeting. Nobody even listened to me they think to themselves- but they don’t let the others know, except maybe with a snort or a sigh which others can’t interpret.
How can the manager ensure that the needs of all these types are met?
Part of this is done using the formalities mentioned at the beginning: send invitations to meetings on time, make a clear agenda, ask the presenters for the materials in advance and make sure that they are also delivered.
1. Listen to everyone during the meeting
Rein in those who are always “first hand up” – give the floor to someone else first. Make sure that the conversation does not get too far off track, so you will not suddenly notice the emotional extroverts talking about their weekend when something completely different should be under discussion. But also to curb those who think that any deviation from the topic is horrible, remind them gently that sociability in meetings and the opportunity to chat with others is just as important as decisions on the table.
2. Give everyone a voice
Make sure throughout the meeting and at the latest at the end that all participants, including the emotional introverts, have been able to voice their opinions, that you have asked each and every one of them if they agree and where they disagree – but decide to act according to the majority decision– and have they all been able to put forward their own ideas.
3. Take minutes of the meeting
And then a little reminder about the after-meeting tasks – the minutes of the meeting. It is good to take minutes of every meeting. I recommend taking turns to record the minutes. If your company has another system that works, that’s great. I definitely do not recommend deciding at the beginning of the meeting who will record the minutes today. Experience has shown that time and time again it is done by the emotional introvert. It is extremely difficult for that type of person to say NO. So, yes, he takes responsibility for the minutes – and from time to time he feels it’s an extreme injustice: always me. But he can’t necessarily say it out loud.
How you can encourage him to express this and other great ideas out loud is the subject of another blog and another training session.
The writer is Terhi Lindgren, the head of Talent management of HUONE