The 3 People That Stand In The Way Of A Productive Meeting

From the person who kills every idea to the one that won’t stop talking, here’s how to keep people from standing in the way of progress.

The 3 People That Stand In The Way Of A Productive Meeting
[Photo: Flickr user Kyle May]

It’s 7 a.m. and you see a 10 a.m. meeting on your schedule. Are you excited? Annoyed? Dreading it already?


If you’re like 46% of Americans, you’d probably rather have any other unpleasant activity in that time slot according to a survey by project management software company Clarizen. But why? Is it because meetings are a time-suck or do certain personality types on your team make them more difficult?

For many managers, it’s the latter. Here are three personality types that destroy meeting morale and a few strategies for keeping them from causing too much damage:

1. The Idea Killers

Who She Is: Karen is an idea killer. She likes to be the center of attention and loves to make sure you and her teammates know why any idea won’t work. It’s not that she doesn’t want the meeting to go smoothly, she just likes to play devil’s advocate…a little too much. While hearing pros and cons for any idea can be productive during a meeting, Idea Killers often focus on the cons of an idea, which may discourage other employees’ creative impulses.

How To Fix The Problem: The best way to keep Idea Killers from destroying your meetings is to institute a two-for-one rule. When an employee wants to discuss the negatives about an idea or strategy, ask them to share two positives first. This may seem basic, but it will make Idea Killers like Karen consider every angle of an idea before trying to shoot it down. Karen will have less negative things to say, and the creative ideas at your meeting will flow.

2. Chatty Cathys

Who He Is: Every office has a Chatty Cathy. They are the employees who try to chat with other employees while you are talking or while one of your employees is presenting. They like to make side comments and jokes that can often affect your employees’ focus and destroy the agenda for your meeting. They need structure.

How To Fix The Problem: Create a detailed meeting agenda, assigning a certain amount of time to every item you have to discuss. Be sure to let your team know that everyone will have time to speak, but that you need them to stay on-topic to help get everyone out the door on time. If you already prepare a meeting agenda, try handing it out as your employees walk through the door to give Chatty Cathys less time to think about what topics might be fodder for jokes and side comments.


If Chatty Cathy still tries to start side conversations, pause the meeting and ask your team to get back on track. Taking the time to build some structure into your meetings–and enforcing it–will help keep Chatty Cathys on task and make your meetings run smoother.

3. Repeaters, Repeaters, Repeaters

Who He Is: Raymond is a repeater. Even though he is intelligent and creative, he often feels self-conscious about how his ideas are different from the rest of the team’s. So, he repeats ideas from earlier in the meeting, sometimes adding his own little twist at the end. This kind of idea repetition can kill the creative flow of a meeting and put you behind schedule.

Repeaters want the group to like their ideas, so they repeat ideas the group has come up with and try to add their personality to them. What they are really looking for is validation. Create a culture of praising original ideas to help encourage Repeaters to come up with creative ideas of their own.

How To Fix The Problem: In brainstorming sessions, use a whiteboard to record ideas and strike them off the list once a conversation is over. By providing a visual list you are helping Repeaters move on from old ideas and encouraging them to add to the discussion. Focusing Repeaters on adding original ideas to the discussion will help keep the conversation moving and the meeting on schedule.

Great ideas can happen at meetings, but not without strong leadership. It’s a manager’s job to make sure their team stays on task, encourages one another, and respects everyone’s creative impulses. As you prepare for your next meeting, think about the Idea Killers, Chatty Cathys, and Repeaters on your team and how you can apply these strategies to keep them from destroying your team’s creative flow.

Molly Owens is the CEO of Truity, a California-based provider of online personality and career assessments and developer of the TypeFinder® personality type assessment. Learn more about personality type and career achievement and connect with Molly and Truity on Twitter and Facebook.