vrijdag 12 oktober 2007

Meeting people

Lately I've been spending a lot of my time in meetings, video and telephone conferences, work related dinners and other social business activities. And it struck me that, after 5 minutes in a meeting you can start identifying different types of people, each with their own capacity. All of them unique and valuable if put to the right use. So, here's a shot at what I think people in meetings are (or at least, how I've met and perceived them).

Mister Social
Tagline:"Have you seen the new hottie on 7th floor?"
Mister Social is not particularly interested in the meeting even though he may have an interest in it. One of his main concerns is usually ventilating his opinion on the latest happenings in the business.

Recommended use:
Grab a cup of coffee with this person. There's tons of value in knowing what is happening in the business. Catch up, listen to what they have to say, ask for specific topics you care about. Never forget: they like talking.

The Secretary
Tagline:"Could you repeat those last 2 words, I missed them because of a typo"
The secretary will take notes of the meeting. No matter if she needs them or not, she will take notes. And by notes, I mean a literal transcript of the entire conversation. You were coughing during your second sentence? Be sure it's noted.

Recommended use:
Maximum value in a semi-large group. A too large group she will slow down by asking to repeat everything, a small group can remember the points without a full written transcript. Totally enforces His Shortness as she will write down his statements. When going through these notes just look for what His Shortness said and read around those things for a bit more detail.

His Shortness
Tagline: "So, to summarize the last 30 mins. Very black and white, it's A or B"
Simply put. This person can simplify everything to a degree you don't even think about. Reducing a one hour meeting to a few headlines. Very often his shortness has no direct interest in the meeting but is there to support somebody else.

Recommended use:
Not good for detailed discussions. Usually frustrates the Shy Guy bet reducing massive amounts of detail. Very interesting to have in meetings were you need to report to people higher up the tree. Usually those are not interested in the finer details but just want a short concise overview of decision. They know there's more detail so they know that what you present is black and white, they'll ask for detail when needed.

The Strong Silent Type
Tagline:"Actually, based on all your opinions, we go this way."
By far my personal favorite. Usually this person will sit there, looking semi-uninterested. The new guys usually wonder why he's in the room. He won't speak, he might slightly whisper something to the person next to him, until decisions need to be taken. No bullshit, everybody had their say and based on that this person will tell what the way is and decide. And for some reason, people generally won't argue anymore. He's the voice of widsom in many situations.

Recommended use:
Whenever a decision is needed, this guy will be involved, so you can just as well get him into the meeting if you don't plan on having a conceptual technical discussion.

The Extremist
Tagline: "No, I disagree with your opinion because mine is always better"
Usually so convinced of own point of view that discussions are very hard and irrelevant. Not open for logic or debate, only for people that agree with this character. Can usually only be halted by the Strong Silent Type or somebody that is hierarchically higher and tells them to shut up.

Recommended use:
At all costs, avoid discussions. Whatever bait they use, don't bite. Either try to scope out the meeting very carefully to not hit their sensitive subject (they will try to force it in anyway) or reveal the strong silent type in the meeting soon enough to get the point of everyone aligned and open a structural discussion.
Try to not have the hierarchy play as this will lead to frustration and more extremist in the future.

The Shy Guy
Tagline:"You asking my opinion? Really? Can I still hide?"
Looking away and not saying a lot. A rookie could mistake this guy for the strong silent type but be sure he's not. He's very often the technical guy that understands exactly what the meeting is about. He doesn't by default ventilate his opinion, and if not spoken to will not speak at all. But once you open his door, what comes out is of great value even though too complex and detailed for a lot of people, not clearly making a point or seeming very structured.

Recommended use:
Get him in when you need detailed information on the project. The hardest part is getting this person to speak. Once you've done that the gain is tremendous. It usually seems like every little detail about the project is stored in his head and available within half a second. If you can avoid a discussion between him and his Shortness you're in for a hell of a ride. He will give you all the detail, his shortness will provide the overview.

Laptop dude
Tagline:"Wow. Cool feature"
Will spend all the meeting typing or playing with his laptop/mobile/pda/latest electronical gadget. Laptop dude is usually a character on top of another type. The trick is to uncover him.

Recommended use:
Get this one out of the meeting. Alternatively unlock the other type, just know that laptop dude on his own has zero value for your meeting.

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