What your meeting habits reveal about you

Another week, another calendar full of meetings. It can be easy to go through the motions of a daily stand-up or yet another debrief and forget that your contributions, level of engagement and facilitation or participation style in meetings can actually reveal a lot about who you are as a professional.

Michael Goldman, president of meeting-facilitation company Facilitation First, says he wishes professionals took meetings more seriously and learned about the science behind highly engaging, collaborative meetings. According to him, there are three foundational areas that effective process leaders master: How to manage themselves so they don’t end up being the cause of a poorly-led meeting, how to manage the process so meetings flow and build logically towards achieving desired outcomes, and how to manage others to maximize participation.

Beyond helping you improve these three foundational areas, deconstructing your meeting habits can actually uncover fascinating information about your professional priorities and leadership style and even gear you up for greater career success.

Ready to find out what your meeting habits say about you and how to use that info to succeed? We’ve asked Goldman, who has helped organizations conduct effective meetings for over 25 years, to share some insights on the topic with us.

The three types of meeting leaders

According to Goldman, there are three types of meeting leaders: content-focused, process-focused, or a hybrid of both.

“A content-focused meeting leader tends to be ‘tell-oriented,’ specifically there to advocate, train, educate. This type of leader holds all the cards in terms of what ideas are put forward. A process-focused meeting leader is there to leverage the wisdom and ideas of meeting participants. They are ‘ask-oriented.’ They are there to ensure the meeting is structured to maximize the engagement of all participants and to ensure all voices are heard and considered. A hybrid meeting leader is excellent at moving back and forth between these roles, ensuring a good balance between telling and asking when required,” he says.

Understanding where you fall within the spectrum of asking and telling can help you round out your weaknesses and maximize your strengths.

What your style reveals about you

Do you tend to hog the spotlight or are you focused on getting the best ideas out of the people around the table? Whatever your habits are, they might reveal traits that show up in your day-to-day work life way past the doors of a conference room.

“A meeting leader who mainly focuses on content and tells most of the time tends to be a more ‘command and control’ type. They see themselves as the expert, as those who have the right idea(s), and view the audience as not as important or relevant to tap into for alternative perspectives. A process-oriented meeting leader tends to facilitate and be collaborative, seeking out other opinions with the understanding that they may not have all the right answers,” says Goldman.

Meeting habits to avoid at all costs

Some meeting habits can actually have a negative impact on your career development. Goldman shared a list of meeting habits to avoid as much as possible if you want to get ahead:

  • Telling more than asking
  • Advocating policy, process or organizational change without checking in with those affected and giving them some voice or allowing for venting
  • Having meetings where the purpose and outcomes are not clear
  • Dominating the meeting and swaying decision-making towards one’s own personal agenda
  • Being unclear about how much decision-making authority participants have
  • Leading a group to believe that they have decision-making authority in determining a recommendation/decision, but then deciding to do something different without consulting the group
  • Giving decision-making authority to a group without telling them what are the non-negotiable parameters re: budget, timeline, resources, etc.
  • Providing no structure to a proposed meeting (e.g. agenda) and/or keeping that structure to themselves during the meeting — leaving the participants unclear as to why they’re engaging in the discussion or what they have to achieve

    Ultimately, you can think of meeting dos and don’ts as an extension of the continuous practice of being an effective, impactful leader.

“Leaders that are more facilitative tend to get the best buy-in and follow-through by their team members. This is easily explained by the fact that when my voice is heard, appreciated, and utilized in a final decision, I’m more likely to want to be part of fulfilling that decision. On the other hand, when a meeting leader just tells and limits input from the meeting participants, most people disengage and feel less committed to the final outcomes,” he says.