When I think of all the meetings I have sat through in my lifetime, it makes me want to chuck everything and join a crew looking for sunken pirate booty. But then I think about how the crew would probably want to hold a meeting about whose job is was to look for the loot and whose job is was to write the report…and I decide to stay where I am.
I always tell people not to ditch meetings – even if they believe them to be a complete waste of time – because it’s important to understand the group’s dynamics and the role each person plays in the organization.
With that in mind, I’ve put together a sort of cheat sheet on meeting participants, which most of you will recognize to some degree. If I’ve left anything out, please feel free to add your own thoughts:
1. The alpha dog. This person sits in the most commanding position, either at the head of the table or in the middle. The alpha dog often spreads out his or her stuff in order to say “I’m in charge.” Watch out for the tendency to pee on the conference table leg before beginning.
2. The smirker. Contributing little to the discussion, this person tries to affect the “I’m too cool for this” persona, but instead sort of resembles a teen showing off for friends in English Lit class. Lots of raised eyebrows, smirks and a tendency to mutter things like “Oh, my Gawd,” while sniggering.
3. The thumb-sucker. Terribly insecure, this person feels the need to continually pump up personal contributions, i.e. “Landing on the moon? Oh, yeah, I know a guy who once did that…he called me from outer space once. The charges were ridiculous, dude!”
4. The navel-gazer. Every issue brings up a personal story that may or may not have anything to do with the issue being discussed. This person believes that his or her experience is one that should not be missed. Works nights and weekends on a personal biography that will make Bill Clinton’s look like a comic book.
5. The devil’s advocate. While contrary opinions can generate some valuable payoffs, this person likes to throw a wrench in the works just to watch the process break down. One of the biggest causes of meetings lasting for five hours. The devil’s advocate sets the alpha dog to yapping and peeing furiously, the smirker to eye-rolling and the thumb-sucker to creating wild tales of personal importance. The navel-gazer begins telling a story about last Christmas’s stocking stuffers.
6. The time traveler. Regardless of what is being discussed, this person seems surprised to be a part of it – as if Scotty just beamed them to the wrong planet. A perpetually confused and bewildered demeanor. Always wants to know: “Should I be taking notes?”
7. The real deal. This person sits quietly, doodling on a notepad. During a lull in the conversation, the real deal will come up with something that is profound and sensible and makes everyone else look like nitwits and numbskulls. Often mistaken for a celebrity while on vacation. Destined to one day be wealthy and directing others while hunting for pirate booty.
8. The pacifier. In the midst of all the yapping and smirking and boasting, the pacifier finds the solution for all the chaos and lack of progress: send the issue to committee for discussion.