I believe strongly we all have two very specific rights regarding participating in meetings. The rights to:

  1. Expect that the group will stick to a meeting agenda; and
  2. Speak up when a meeting goes off-track.
Why? Because time and relationships are our most precious resources. Unproductive meetings burn up a lot of both.
While leaders, organizers and designated facilitators have the most obvious authority to exercise these rights to stick to an agenda and speak up when it isn’t happening, anybody who is participating in a meeting also has these rights. It may not be easy to speak up against the norm or to ask a dominant person to respect the meeting agenda, but your time and your relationships – along with those of everyone participating in your meeting – are too valuable to waste. Over the years, I have learned to rely on scripts as the easiest and most effective way to disrupt troublesome meeting behavior – behavior that often holds a meeting hostage and prohibits progress. In fact, scripts are one of my most reliable Facilitator on Fire tools – part of what I call my Facilitator on Fire Mindset. I am so committed to the idea that everyone has the right to speak up in meetings that I want to share my scripts with you!  
These scripts can help you get your meeting back on track and take back your time when you notice one of these common behaviors occurring:
  • The Monopolizer
  • The Boomerang
  • The Block
  • The Left-Fielder
You will likely view these scripts differently depending on whether you are an organizer, leader or participant in a meeting. The trick to making them work, no matter your role, is to be direct, respectful and kind. Shouting and making faces will not help your delivery, but respect goes a long way when you are asking someone to stop engaging in a problematic behavior. Here is the basic pattern each of the scripts is based on:
  1. I have noticed [the behavior];
  2. That’s not what we came here to do/it is keeping us from achieving our agenda;
  3. Can you do [this] instead for the remainder of this meeting/for the next few minutes.
These scripts work. Over time, you will find that this basic pattern and these basic scripts can be adapted for any number of situations, but addressing these particular behaviors is a good place to start. In order to use these scripts effectively, you must not confuse behavior and motivation. In a meeting situation, you can simply address the behavior you observe, not the motivation or emotional situation causing the behavior. If you are the leader, organizer or facilitator of the meeting or group, if a person refuses to cooperate, you have the option to ask the offender to leave or to suspend the meeting and reconvene another time. You are NOT required to allow any person, topic or group to have the power to hold everyone in the room hostage because of damaging behavior or high emotions. This is true for work, volunteer, worship and family engagements. Grab your cheat sheet to disrupt damaging meeting behaviors.

Do you have tips on managing a productive meeting? Questions about how to maintain respect during a damaging meeting? Leave a comment below!

Kay Coughlin, CEO and Chief Facilitator of Facilitator On Fire, is on a mission to help Millennials, Gen X-ers and Boomers (and Zs and Traditionalists, too!) work together on teams that are higher-performing and happier.

Kay’s Great Teams on Purpose Mastermind helps leaders and managers build amazing multi-generational teams (register here) . The skill she teaches in her public speaking, “How to be Heard in a Noisy Business World,” is part of the formula she created to help teams become abundantly successful, together.


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