Dealing with Team Members Who Are ‘Off-Track’

By: Jim Bruce
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Most of us have experienced team members taking the discussion at a meeting off-track.  It could be to a topic not on the team leader’s agenda, either the written one or the one in only the lead’s head.  Or, it could be to an aspect of a topic on the agenda that has already been addressed, etc. The Tuesday Reading today, ”Dealing with Team Members Who Are ‘Off-Track’“ <http://yhoo.it/110uQtU>, comes from the pen of Roger Schwartz, and first appeared in Mindset, Behavior, Results, a newsletter from Roger Schwartz & Associates.

Schwartz notes that team members go off-track when the meaning’s purpose is unclear, when there isn’t agreement as to the meeting process, or when the time allocated for the topic is not sufficient.  Members can increase the likelihood of staying on track if the team members jointly participate in setting/finalizing the agenda:

1.  Agree on the purpose of the meeting.  You can do this in many ways before the meeting or at its start.  For example, you can review the agenda at the start of the meeting talking about the meeting and the desired outcomes.  Input from the attendees can be used to adjust the agenda to achieve the meeting purpose.

2.  Being clear when one topic is finished and another is about to begin.  This is a good time to identify any actions – next steps – that are to be taken, who is taking the lead in this work, and when that work is to be completed.

3.  Have a plan to deal with team members who go off topic.  For example, you might explore how their issue relates to the topic being discussed and if it doesn’t relate, postpone it until a future meeting.  If the individual habitually takes the topic off-track, perhaps it is time for you to have a one-on-one conversation about his or her meeting behavior.

All of these steps act on the principle that everyone together has a broader understanding of an issue than any one alone.  By getting everyone’s agreement at the beginning, you will have a much more effective meeting.

Take the time to try these suggestions out at a meeting you’re leading this week.

.  .  .  .     jim

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