Meetings are a way of life for most professionals.
In fact, 37% of employee time is spent in meetings. If you are the average busy professional attending roughly 60 meetings a month, the odds are that you have encountered one of these scenarios:
- The Runaway Agenda—you are trapped in a runaway meeting with no clear leader to run the agenda, so your time is now at the mercy and whim of wherever the conversation may lead.
- The Meeting Hijacker—your well-planned and organized meeting is suddenly hijacked by someone who showed up with their own agenda.
- The Prize Fight—you find yourself with a ring-side seat to a verbal sparring match between warring departments.
These meetings are, at best, a waste of time, and in the worst-case scenarios, they can create unhealthy conflict within your team and contribute to employee job dissatisfaction.
It may be tempting to neutralize these common negative behaviors by canceling meetings or removing troublemakers from the roster, but those techniques often backfire. Attendees need to know they are being heard. But that shouldn’t interrupt your regularly scheduled programming!
Enough, Let’s Move On.
Whether you are running the meeting or just along for the ride, addressing the issue and refocusing the meeting can often be accomplished by using a simple technique: E.L.M.O. or “Enough, Let’s Move On.” The objective with “Enough, Let’s Move On” is to acknowledge that the point has been made and get everyone back on track. E.L.M.O. allows you to recognize a person’s issue without allowing an entire group’s time to be taken hostage by a single topic.
Respecting everyone’s time by keeping the agenda moving also helps prevent other attendees from mentally (or literally) checking out.
So how do you introduce E.L.M.O. into your meetings without offending anyone or creating additional conflict? First and foremost, approach the topic with your colleagues before using E.L.M.O. in any meetings. E.L.M.O. should be used respectfully and applies to everyone, even the person running the meeting. Ask attendees to voice their concerns about introducing E.L.M.O. into your meeting culture. The odds are that most people will be relieved that you want to address some of the behavior that is derailing meetings.
Once you start using E.L.M.O. in meetings, make sure the technique is not used to prevent the free flow of ideas in brainstorming or risk identification sessions.
You may also want to consider buying a small Elmo toy to bring to meetings. Many people will keep their talking points brief if they see Elmo sitting in the middle of the conference table.
When used correctly, E.L.M.O. is a simple, good-natured way of curtailing certain bad meeting etiquette.