We are all familiar with the concept of blocking. Many of us grapple frequently with roadblocks. Occasionally we have blocked drains. Some of us suffer from blocked arteries. A block stops something happening, and is generally considered a bad thing. Particularly when they show up in our meetings, where sadly they are far too common.
I was on a course recently when the subject turned to people who block progress in meetings. Much laughter ensued as we all regaled each other with stories of the different types of uncooperative individuals who, whether intentionally or simply as a by-product of their character, stop all progress at meetings. And then this awful thought dawned on me – which one am I?
If so many of the meetings I’ve been chairing have been disrupted by someone, how often have I disrupted somebody else’s meeting? How often have you? And once you’ve realised which one you are, what can you do to make sure you avoid blocking behaviour? In the missions world our meetings are often complicated enough – possibly led by people with no training or aptitude for chairing, many of the participants not speaking in their heart language, different cultures expressing themselves in different ways – that it can be hard enough to be effective without us bringing the unhelpful aspects of our personalities into the room too.
There are probably an endless number of the different types of blockers but here are a few you might recognise:
- Diplomat – a person who’s so keen to avoid upsetting anybody that they end up talking a lot but not really going anywhere with it. Solution: You have an opinion, it does no harm to share it!
- Reluctant participant – if we don’t really want to be in a meeting, we let people know. We may not be paying attention, using social media, or answering emails. Solution: Pay attention and it will be over quicker!
- Butterfly – this sort of mind happily touches down on the matter in hand for a few moments, before fluttering off to somewhere else. They continually throw out random suggestions which may take the meeting off on a completely different trajectory. Solution: Concentrate!
- Unprepared participant – these people come to the meeting without having bothered to read the sheaf of briefing notes. Solution: Respect others by not wasting their time explaining things to you.
- NIMBY (“Not In My Back Yard”!) Nimbys are very defensive of their own territory, and will block developments that are of value to the agency if they adversely affect the Nimby’s ministry/team/personal opportunities. Solution: Learn to see the bigger picture!
- Campaigner – sometimes we have a fixation that there is only one thing that needs to be done to put the world to rights, and we bring it up at every opportunity even if everyone’s heard it before. Solution: Get over it!
- Joker – some people can’t resist using humour, and the right amount in the right place can be just what is needed to lighten the atmosphere. But too much simply becomes a distraction. Solution: Keep quiet!
- Show off – some people love an audience, and a captive one is even better. But this may not be the right place to grandstand all your achievements. Solution: Stay humble!
- Bully – belittling and demeaning others in order to get your own way is not negotiating – it is bullying. If other people leave a meeting hurt by what you’ve said about them, you’re a bully. Solution: Deal with your personal inadequacies somewhere else!
I am finding that asking myself a few simple questions before opening my big mouth can help contribute to a better meeting experience for everyone. Asking myself questions like: “Is what I’m about to say going to move the meeting on?”, “Have I already had my share of time?”, “Am I going to unnecessarily exasperate people?” can lead to me talking less, but saying more.
Those of you who know me will be looking down this list saying to yourselves “That’s him, that’s him….” But let me ask you a more important question: which one are you?