Feature It or Fix It: Keeping Meetings On Track

QUESTION: How do I deal with employees who complain at meetings? Any tips with counteracting an employee who just beats a dead horse at meetings and derails everything?

ANSWER: Denying the problem never makes the problem go away. When employees try to derail your meeting by complaining, you have to take charge. One of the things I’ve learned as a professional speaker is a tool called “Fix it or Feature it.”  When something happens that interrupts your meeting, you have to take charge and you can’t do that if you are in denial. So, let’s look at how to feature the problem.

Make their need to complain, part of the meeting. In other words, you release your resistance to the complaining.  Here’s how: When you start the meeting you have a “beat the dead horse” session. Prepare your little speech about how you realize the need to get it all out in the open.

1. Get flip chart and markers
2. Have someone scribe all the complaints on the flip chart
3. Encourage people to gripe to their heart’s consent.
4. When 5 min is up ask them to initial complaints that they have solutions or ideas for.
5. Ask them to turn in these ideas for the next meeting.
6. Set the agenda for the rest of the meeting.

If you don’t like this idea, or if you feel that you are not skilled enough to have some fun with the complaining, then you must “fix it” before it gets out of hand.

Fix it
When you start the meeting, acknowledge any bad vibes floating around, then “fix it” by setting an expectation and a boundary. It should go like this: “I know that many people are very dissatisfied with the new policy on X. We are still looking at the problems, and some of the complaints are valid. However, today’s meeting will not be about those problems. I’m going to let you know that we have a tight meeting today and if anyone gets side-stepped and brings up the problems around X, I will re-direct.

I want to be fair, and not embarrass anyone, so be prepared because we are going to stick the agenda which is ABC, and that is the purpose of today’s meeting. (Now here’s what will happen if the boundary is crossed)  I will be forced to ask you to leave the meeting if it feels like you are not on board with the agenda.

Then ask for agreement, “can I see a show of hands for everyone who will commit to helping stick to the agenda?”  Now you have set the expectations in advance and you have warned them.

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marlene2Marlene Chism is a consultant, international speaker and author of Stop Workplace Drama (Wiley 2011). Marlene’s passion is developing wise leaders and helping people to discover, develop and deliver their gifts to the world.

Marlene’s message is spreading across the country at association meetings, corporate retreats, universities and other venues. If interested in exploring speaking or training opportunities please call 1.888.434.9085