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Don’t Be A Meeting Disruptor

Have you ever been in a meeting where someone speaks up and everyone around the table groans?

As you look to accelerate your career it is important that your participation in meetings demonstrates that you are a capable contributor, you have executive presence, and you are self-aware.

We want to share a few thoughts about when you should speak and when you shouldn’t.

Before we begin, telling people to “shut up” because they are a “Meeting Disruptor” may sound harsh, but better to hear it here than to be quietly pushed aside.

Take this opportunity to reflect on your style in meetings, asking yourself am I doing everything in my control to accelerate my career?

Why Knowing When To Speak Matters

As leaders we regularly have thoughts and conversations about who to invite to important meetings. There are inevitably people who have genuinely good intentions, but who are also destructive when they participate in meetings.

Some people link the conversation to their personal story, or they add facts that are unhelpful, or they create a whole new line of conversation that is not central to the point of the original meeting.

Other people simply lack social awareness or have not had enough experience to know when to not speak.

Believe it or not, leaders pay attention to those Meeting Disruptors and will, consciously or subconsciously, note these people as problematic.

Know Your Role

Ask yourself, am I here to lead the discussion, provide subject matter expertise, or to be informed?


If you are leading the conversation, then it is your responsibility to use everyone’s time well. See the Harvard Business Review article on 10 Tactics to Keep Your Meeting on Track. Don’t let meeting disruptors steal everyone’s time. Have courage to tell people no, own the moment, and be a leader.

Tips for meeting owners:

· Ask yourself if the meeting is necessary

· Only invite people who have a purpose for being there

· Have a strict agenda and set expectations early in the meeting

· Identify meeting disruptors and provide coaching to them if they must be present

· If someone asks a bad question, then tell the group we will table that point and get back to it another time

Leaders need to know how to manage a meeting when it is getting off track.

Leaders need to be direct and exert control even if it is uncomfortable to prevent meeting disruptors from affecting the outcome of a meeting.

💡 Pro Tip: Check out this meeting cost calculator: Link

Subject Matter Experts

If you are there to be a subject matter expert, then pick your spots.

You are not there to run the meeting or provide ancillary / tangential thoughts or questions. You are there to provide responses to specific questions or fill gaps in the group’s knowledge.

Other Attendees

If you are in a meeting as a non-leader or non-subject matter expert, then it may best to err on the side of listening unless your contribution is called upon.

If you are there to listen, particularly if you are one of the more junior people on the call, then recognize your place in the hierarchy.

It is true that culturally many believe “everyone’s opinion matters,” but we can tell you that there are dumb questions and there are opinions that should be held back. Businesses are not democracies; they are more like monarchies with an aristocracy, and it will benefit you to remember that.

💡 Pro Tip: If you are looking for an opportunity to get the good kind of notoriety, then only offer relevant, succinct, and problem-solving statements. Speak quickly and get to the point.

Can I Drive Efficiency

When you attend a meeting ask yourself what I can do to improve the efficiency of the meeting.

· Do I need to ask this question or make this statement?

· Will my contribution benefit others?

· Is this something I can take offline in a one-on-one conversation?

· Is my input important for this conversation?

· Is my input contrary to the point my leadership is making?

· Am I speaking to show everyone I am participating?

· Am I offering opinions or facts?

💡 Pro Tip: Read the room and know when it is appropriate to engage and when you should not speak. If you are really paying attention, then you can read the vibe of the room based on nonverbal communication. See the Harvard’s Business Review on Your Body Language Speaks for You in Meetings

Difficult Conversations

Sometimes there will be difficult conversations. For instance, the company may be going through a round of layoffs or the company leaders are sharing changes in the policies about socially sensitive topics.

If there is a large group meeting, an “All Hands” call, or a company-wide meeting really ask yourself is my question about me, is my question to get social credibility, or is my question important to ask at this point in time?

Don’t get overwhelmed by your emotions during times of change. Ask questions that have answers that will help everyone.

By asking personally beneficially, dare we say selfish, questions or making statements that disrupt the conversation these Meeting Disruptors are actually hurting their teammates and the company as a whole by wasting valuable time and by conflating the conversation that distracts from the main point of the meeting.

A Note About Audit or Legal Meetings

If you are leading a meeting as part of an audit or legal matter, then there are a few items leaders should consider.

· Only have the smallest selection of the right people in the room who are well prepared and ready to engage in the conversation with facts and context

· Create a light and friendly atmosphere when you can

· Not everyone has to introduce themselves, do it for the room. You invited them and you should be able to explain why participants are there

· Answer questions directly and based on facts.

💡 💡💡 Extra Pro Tip 💡 💡 💡

If you lead a sentence with the following you should probably not say it to begin with:

· I know this is contrary

· I am not sure but

· To be honest

· I could be wrong but

· I know we discussed this but

· I believe

Think about your statements. Be direct. Provide context if you need to, but don’t hedge. Just get to the point. Everyone else will appreciate you saving their time.

Final Thoughts

If you get tagged as a Meeting Disruptor it will negatively affect your career.

You want leaders to know you have executive presence.

They want to know you can read the room. They want to know you understand how to solve problems efficiently.

We all want our peers and leaders to know we are making contributions to the success of the team and the company. However, by speaking at the wrong moment or saying the wrong thing you can hurt your career.

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