Avoiding Common Problems that Derail Meetings
Running an effective meeting and keeping everyone engaged in an art. Far too often, meetings go awry in spite of your best intentions. This accomplishes very little and makes people miserable. It’s up to you, as the leader of your HOA meetings, to learn the art of leading effective and productive meetings. Here are some tips on handling common problems that can derail a meeting.
- Dominating – When the same person interrupts other members or dominates every discussion, it has a negative impact on other members. One way to handle this behavior is to establish a rule where each person contributes one idea to the discussion and then must wait until every other Board member has an opportunity to speak before contributing to the conversation again. The rule gives the leader the clout to interrupt the dominator or ask him/her to summarize the point so that others can add their ideas.
- Withdrawing – Some Board members separate themselves emotionally, physically or psychologically from the group. They don’t talk, and if pressed for a response, will answer briefly. Typically, there’s an unresolved conflict that needs to be addressed. Talk to the person privately to identify the problem and let them know that the Board needs their ideas. Ask direct questions and solicit ideas from the person during meetings to keep him/her involved.
- Side Conversations – These dialogues distract everyone from concentrating on the group’s discussion. As the leader, you can set the expectation upfront that the meeting will stop if there are side conversations. Then, enforce this by saying that the side conversations are making it difficult to focus on the discussion. Ask if everyone will agree to focus on the main discussion.
- Uncooperative – From time to time, you may encounter a Board member who opposes almost everything and uses a personal agenda to impede progress. If you can find just one supportive aspect, the Board can move forward. Refocusing the individual’s responsibilities may also deter the uncooperative behavior. Take the member aside to discuss the situation privately.
- Rambling – Some people start commenting on a topic and twist the conversation to a completely different topic. Most ramblers think as they talk, so they don’t recognize what they are doing. The leader must interrupt and say, “Lucy, I’m sorry to interrupt. I’m concerned about the time…can I get us back on track.” If the rambler brings up another topic that needs to be discussed, record the issue on the “parking lot” for a future meeting.
Establishing ground rules that all Board members agree to upfront and following your agenda naturally limits many meeting problems. When that’s not enough, it’s up to you to keep the HOA Board meeting on track. Leading an effective meeting is often the art of managing the challenging moments.