Here are the first two of the worst people who can show up and muck up your meetings — and how to remove their fangs.
The “That Won’t Worker”
This is one of the most destructive forces in the universe. Whatever you suggest, she will tell you, “That won’t work.” She won’t tell you why it won’t work — or what the circumstances were when it didn’t work the last time — just that it won’t work. And she’s certainly not going to give you any suggestions of what will work.
She exists to shoot down new ideas, maintain the status quo, and make sure no one gives her any more work.
Solutions: If possible, don’t invite her. Negativity — like any mood — is catching.
If she’s a key person, then offer to get together one-on-one after the meeting to give her a personal report of what happened. (Chances are she’ll like the special treatment.) Deal with her objections directly as she raises them. Keep your energy level high, so she doesn’t drag you down.
If she must be in the meeting, try this. Bill it as a brainstorming session. Share the rules up front: 1) all ideas are acceptable at this stage and will be weeded out later, and 2) there will be no negative comments. When she makes them (as she will), remind her of the rules and move on.
If you can’t logically call this a brainstorming, you still have options. When she begins to nitpick, ask her for concrete examples. When she can offer these, give her direct responses to address any real concerns. Let her know quickly why you don’t think the others aren’t valid. Should she get curmudgeonly — and start to do so at length — tell her you’d like to hear more about this during a break or after the meeting. Then deal with her offline.
The “Devil in the Detailer”
He can halt the progress of any meeting. You can’t possibly share enough information to suit him — he always needs more. Chances are he has a technical background, such as engineering. And when you don’t give him the granular level he wants, he often mumbles to other people around you — in a stage whisper that everyone can hear — that this is an ill-conceived idea that is sure to fail. “Mark my words!”
While he may have a genuine wish to see something succeed, the only way he thinks that will happen is if every possible scenario is explored to the nth degree.
Solutions: Provide the details to him before the meeting. This shows you’ve done your homework and means that you won’t have to do this in front of everyone else. You probably can score extra points by telling him you understand he appreciates the details, so you’ve done this just for him.
Think about the possible questions or objections he may raise and create your answers in advance. Most people won’t come up with more than four. But go ahead and do the top 10. Then you’ll be covered by — and comfortable with — your answers.
If he comes across something you haven’t considered, don’t get flustered. If it’s a good question, say so. If there is time, invite others in the meeting to join you in sharing ways to address the issue. If you can’t fit it in, then schedule another meeting to do this — because you always want to respect people and end your meetings on time.
You have a reason for every meeting you call — and goals to achieve during it. Do some strategizing before you get into the room. Don’t let these two energy vampires turn everyone into the sitting dead.