One of the biggest challenges meeting leaders face is managing people who derail meetings. By being intimidating, negative, contentious, argumentative, dominating or snarking, meeting derailers can change the focus, structure and flow of the meeting.

One ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

  • Ask open-ended questions (what, how, why).
  • Seek participants’ ideas and solutions first before offering yours.
  • Anticipate conflict and deal with key players in advance.
  • Use an agenda and distribute it in advance to keep people on track.
  • Identify time lines for agenda items to prevent rambling.
  • Save your time for the important items.

Maintain control of the derailer!

  • Talk to the dominators in advance of the meeting and ask for their help in bringing the non- contributors to the table. 
  • During the meeting, if the dominator stays quiet too long, invite them back into the discussion.
  • Make eye contact with the people you want to hear from.
  • Eliminate eye contact with dominators or ramblers.
  • Call on quiet people by name to create a space for their input.

Control negativity in the room!

  • Seek options, not positions to encourage creative thinking and build consensus.
  • Support some part of the negative person’s contribution, even if it is to acknowledge their concern. (“I can see you care a lot about this issue.” Or “I agree with you, the delays have been frustrating.”
  • Follow with a positive statement to turn the climate and move forward. (“Wouldn’t you agree, however, that we have made some progress?”)
  • Relay derailer’s comments to other participants.  (“Carol thinks this idea will never fly.  What about the rest of you?”)