Practice Meetings and How to Win your Point!

“Meetings can be the most frustrating part of our working lives. People at meetings can be most frustrating too. The outcome of meetings can also be most frustrating. So how can we minimize the ‘frustration’ factor?” Read on…….

So what are the Components of a Meeting?

Well there’s the place, the meeting room. Then there’s the content of the room, such as chairs, and a table, wipe boards, flip charts and a ‘clock’. Is there a rectangular table or a round table or perhaps even no table just chairs? To start with on one occasion I recall that the chairs wee stacked in the corner of the room. I entered a room for an interview and the candidates chair was facing the opposite way to the interviewers. I obviously was expected to move the chair. In fact I kept moving to face the person I was speaking to. I remember getting the job. There were more than 10 people on the interviewing panel. I didn’t want neck ache.

Who are the members of a meeting?

A formal committee or meeting may well have well defined membership. It might be all of the doctors, health professionals and senior practice staff. It might be just the ‘partners’ and the practice manager. It might be a meeting of all the health team and staff. There might be an agenda but my experiences with agendas and agenda manipulation would leave me to suspect that there is always a hidden agenda.  Of course, what would a meeting be without a chair-person? However, a chairman might need a little bit more than a gavel to keep the meeting in order. Strangely sometimes I have known the ‘chair’ move around the room. Let’s take a look at the people at the meeting.

Us and Them

The success or otherwise of the meeting might depend on where ‘people’ choose to sit. Those that sit at the head of the meeting or the bottom of the table can attract the ‘ear’ of the meeting. It could be said that the person at the bottom ‘head’ of the table might be in opposition to the ‘chair-person. In the House of Commons the split of views is represented by the Government benches and the Opposition benches. But then there are the cross benches, the undecided, but I thought there were no seats in the middle. Even in the House of Commons sometimes there is a free vote or an unopposed vote. That’s politics. Being in sight of the chairperson might also help.

Now let’s look at the individuals

  • The Silent Member

Usually someone calls a meeting. It might be a regular meeting so the matters on the agenda are almost preordained and predetermined. The date and time of the meeting might also be preset. There should therefore be no excuse for not attending. However, perhaps the first character to deal with is the non-attender. Not quite so bad is the attender who sits there but does not take part. This person attends but remains silent. Before the meeting the person might have been quite vocal on the subject matter to be discussed in the corridors of power. But when it comes to the crunch curiously remains silent at the meeting and when it comes to voting hardly has the energy to raise an arm.

  • The Bossy Member

The bossy member is in the main the chairman although that person might not actually be sitting on the chair. Sometimes the chair moves around the room and members have their own agenda to follow so take over the chair. The poor chairman stumbles along not realizing what is happening. I have even experienced the chairman outside the room. In the corridors of power prior to the meeting there have been ‘standing committees’. A member has put forward his or her views to other members. He or she remains silent at the meeting but the others having been persuaded win the day. Again the poor chairman wonders where it has all come from.

  • The Pernickety Member

The Pernickety Member is the one the agenda and reports were actually written for. They have read every word; crossed every ‘t’ and dotted every ‘I’. Their concern for detail and correctness may be well placed but it unlikely to sway an argument in the scheme of things. It becomes an annoyance. But like Miranda sometimes they shout ‘Fire’ and sometimes they are right.

  • The Sleeper

The sleeper sits reading papers not necessarily the agenda papers probably a newspaper. You may even think he is asleep. (He probably is!) These days they might have their eye on an Ipad, tablet or phone. Are they listening? Probably! Are they asleep? Possibly! In my experience, the sleeper does listen and perks up when something serious needs to be commented on or decided. Do not be put off by the apparent lack of attention. I think I always regarded myself as a bit of a sleeper as I always waited until everyone had had their say before I chipped in. I usually found it a most effective way of polishing off an argument.

  • The Chair-person

Don’t underestimate or undermine the role of the chairperson. The chairman has the agenda to hand – well more or less. The chairperson runs the clock on the meeting. The chairman can ‘try’ to control who speaks, when they speak and how long they speak for. When the chairman speaks no one should interrupt, but they do!  Alternatively, the meeting can fall apart or as said already, the role of the chair can shift around the room depending upon who has the loudest voice. It could be argued that the loudest voice or the strongest argument always wins no matter who they are or where they sit.

Robert Campbell is a retired practice manager and writer on General Practice issues (and past-President of a national trade union – meetings galore…………

Revised May 2018


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