“Nothing ever gets done.”

“We spent two hours discussing something I could have decided in five minutes.”

“We started on one topic and jumped around all over the place until we came back and decided on the first topic in 3 seconds.”

“There’s no agenda. I don’t know why I’m there.”

“We all take time out of our busy days to come to these meetings when the decisions have already been made. It doesn’t matter what we think.”

These are all comments about what constitutes a substantial proportion of many people’s work-life: the ever-present meeting. Meetings can serve a great time-saving and generative purpose or they can be one of the most frustrating aspects of organizational life.

There are many factors which make a meeting one or the other, or something in between, but in this short piece I want to focus in on what makes a successful meeting and how understanding the attendees’ preference for Introversion or Extraversion, can be key in what makes or breaks a great meeting.

In most organizations people spend 25-75% of their time in meetings and working in teams.

According to a Harvard Business Review article from March 2015, meeting face to face serves three purposes:

  • To inform and bring people up to speed.
  • To seek input from people.
  • To ask for approval.

In this same article, Dana Rousmaniere gives her list of essentials for productive meetings:

  1. Always start with an agenda – be specific, prepare and discuss with others ahead of time what the most important items are
  2. Limit attendees – ask yourself what the priorities are and who absolutely need to be there
  3. Keep it on track – don’t let your meeting get derailed. This takes some skill in facilitating which would be well worth acquiring.
  4. Manage attendees – encourage all attendees to participate on topic without letting the discussion take tangents. Perhaps the most important skill of valuing differences in how people approach meetings, contribute to the process and make decisions.
  5. Set the right tone – be aware of how your voice and body language may be affecting the tone of the meeting.
  6. Define next steps – record who will do what, by when. Be specific and ready to set some accountability in place.

Let us zero in on point 4 for a moment. How can we do our best at encouraging everyone is heard, valuing different people’s contributions while staying on topic and accomplishing what needs to be done in a timely way?

Standard meetings may support some individuals and not others. Some people seem to get what they want while others struggle to be heard and wonder what the point of their presence truly is. What can we do to level the playing field?

Psychological type provides a way to understand the needs an contributions of different people to the work of groups. Making use of this perspective will help to make sure everyone’s voice is heard, their contribution welcomed. Look over the following descriptions keeping in mind the preferences of those in your work group or team.

Extraversion describes individuals with an outward focus.

In a meeting setting, they want:

  • A chance to see people and to interact with them
  • To talk over ideas and work together on projects – they find this energizes and stimulates them
  • A break in their day
  • A chance to be involved in the action – whatever it is

Introversion describes individuals with an inward focus.

When Introverts go to meetings they want:

  • Advance notice of topics so they can prepare ahead of time, think over the issues
  • A group where they feel comfortable talking
  • Time for internal processing, then airtime for their reflections
  • In-depth focus on a subject
  • A chance to share their knowledge and information
  • To stabilize and calm a group – ask “what are we overlooking?”

What do you suspect are the preferences of your group? What about you?

As you read these points and think about meetings you attend or organize, you may realize that Extraverts have the advantage in many of our meetings. It may be more challenging for the Introverts in the group to be able to be effective contributors. The challenge for you as you set up your next meeting is to create the environment for constructive work to occur, benefiting from the contributions of all participants to make your meetings collaborative, productive, and, most of all, worthwhile. Discussing these differences with your team may go a long way to avoiding some of the common problems plaguing this essential work forum.

To find out more about how I can help with your work group, for sources and other resources on this topic, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Let’s stay in touch. I’d love to hear about your meeting trials and triumphs.