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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, October 07, 2018 1:00 am

Work to make introverts active in meetings

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

The mere mention of them can cause people to cringe, and yet they're essential to getting things done.

Meetings.

So if we must have them, they might as well be productive.

Business executive J. Elise Keith became a first-time author this summer with the release of the book “Where the Action Is: The Meetings That Make or Break Your Organization.”

Keith said she had been blogging about meetings for years and decided a book would be an easier read.

The e-book was released in June and the paperback in September.

Keith, based in Portland, Oregon, is co-founder of Lucid Meetings. Her background includes working as a product manager for software companies. 

Her book introduction emphasizes how prevalent meetings are. If you get a new job, it's because you interviewed well – in a meeting. The team that decided to hire you probably had a meeting. If a startup gets funding, there was probably a pitch meeting. When leaders decide to send troops to foreign lands or peace talks occur, so too have meetings.

“It is in meetings that we agree on how we will make or break the future,” Keith wrote.

Simple as having a meeting seems, Keith identifies 16 types in her book.

There are meetings, for example, for planning and there are kick-off meetings. There are meetings to respond to emergencies. There are progress checks and idea generation meetings.

“If you're super clear on what the purpose is or the desired outcomes, that's a pretty good start,” Keith said in a telephone interview last week.

If you can define the type of meeting that's needed, it's easier to be successful. “There is no such thing as a generic meeting,” Keith said.

And organizations are “no better than the decisions that get made. ... There is a way to go about making higher-quality decisions.”

So what if the meeting leader is clear about the approach and goal but others in the room aren't as clear or are resistant? Keith sees that as a teaching opportunity.

“One of the most criminally wasteful things we do is we tell people to sit at meetings, but don't show them how they work,” she said.

It's not uncommon for leaders to think a meeting went well. The goal is for everyone who was in it to feel the same.

Most people want to know why they're there, what they're going to get, and how to actively participate – and that's true, Keith said, even for introverts. Getting those who are more reserved to participate requires flexible facilitating.

A meeting leader could set a timer, for example, and ask everyone to write down some thoughts. The leader could gather the ideas and post them or group people and have an extrovert representative of the group verbally share from the discussions.

“There are a lot of ways to get participation from introverted people that doesn't require them to speak in front of the whole group,” Keith said.

Some people are more deliberate in their thinking before they consider speaking. 

And Keith has seen the extreme opposite. 

“Some people,” she said, “can talk out loud for 20 minutes on something they've never heard.”

To share a thought, a favorite quote or other wisdom about leadership, email Lisa Green at lisagreen@jg.net. Lead On also appears online as a blog at www.journalgazette.net/blog/lead-on/