39The “Long and Winding Roadster” 

This person doubles the amount of time any meeting requires. He loves to tell stories. They are usually about him, and may or may not have anything to do with the topic. He thinks his tales are incredibly entertaining.

Sometimes you and others in the meeting enjoy his stories, too. That makes it particularly hard to cut him off — especially once he gets going. And if he’s a senior person, it can feel like political suicide to stop him.

Solutions: Create your agenda and send it to everyone in advance. Always include an ending as well as a starting time. Then set expectations at the beginning of the meeting. Let people know you want to respect their time and be conscientious about covering everything on the agenda. This means you’ll occasionally interject to keep things moving.

When the Roadster cranks up — as he will — tell him, “Everyone would love to hear your story. If we finish a little early, then you’ll be able to share it with us.” Now you’ve created an ally to keep things moving.

The “Incessant Interrupter”

She never lets let anyone finish a complete sentence or thought. And once she has the floor, she won’t give it up. She never seems to take a breath to allow anyone to interrupt her to get back to the agenda. And if you try to raise your voice to talk over her, chances are she’ll raise hers even louder.

This person gets attention by diverting it from everyone else. And plenty of times if you do wrest the focus from her, she’ll briefly act wounded, and then look for another chance to interrupt.

Solutions: Start with politeness. Raise your hand with your palm facing the Interrupter. Say in a calm but firm voice, “Please hold that thought …” or “I want to hear what you think, but please let me finish first.”

What if you’re in an adversarial situation and politeness won’t work? Raise your voice as you interrupt the Interrupter. If she raises her voice louder and continues speaking, then stop in the middle of your sentence. Chances are that she won’t expect this and will continue talking loudly. Then she’ll likely look foolish, feel embarrassed and stop, or take a breath. That’s when you jump back in and take charge.

The “Unfocused Decision-Maker”

This person ensures every meeting becomes at least one more — or ideas are vetoed. While physically there, his mind is elsewhere. He may be checking emails, or reading a report that has nothing to do with your topic, or taking calls.

When it’s time to make a decision, he’s not prepared. That may mean scheduling another meeting — where he’ll do the same thing. Or it could mean he says “no.” He’ll tell you it’s because you haven’t convinced him –not because he hasn’t been paying attention.

Solutions: Start your meeting with the most important point for the Unfocused Decision-Maker. This gets his attention — because it interests him — and you press through things before his phone rings. You also can promise a 15-minute meeting with positive outcome: if everyone turns off his or her phone and focuses on the subject. While you haven’t called out the Unfocused, there will be pressure to comply with the group as everyone else does this.

Meetings often are a necessary evil in business. Make sure you get to the necessary by short-circuiting the evils who may be around the table.