When Your Team Meetings Become Like Thanksgiving Dinner

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Nov 26, 2014

Thanksgiving is a time for family.

We have the eccentric uncle or an unpredictable cousin, but they are family. We enjoy the day and take a deep breath knowing we only see Uncle Buck once per year.

But, if you have the same eccentric characters playing key roles on your team, it’s not that easy. And, it’s every day.

Recognize individual habits that impact everyone. Your team is counting on you.

Do any of these roles sound familiar on your team?

  • Permanent host – Everyone just assumes this relative will host Thanksgiving dinner every year. “What time is Tom having dinner?” before Tom sent an invitation. At work, determine if Tom is the default host because no one else steps up. He may want a break. Spread the responsibility around or make sure Tom has some quality support. Let him know he is appreciated.
  • Gravy specialist – Aunt Sally was complimented on her gravy back in the 70’s and ever since she is the gravy expert. The only problem is that this is the only item she’ll bring. If you have a gravy specialist on your team, encourage “your Sally” to try a different dish. You need versatility in these changing times. Give a new simple, yet memorable, recipe and encourage experimentation this year. She may come around.
  • Grand entrance relative – This relative always arrives an hour late while everyone circles the table waiting for their turkey and dressing. Whether it’s procrastination or the desire for a grand entrance, this late arriver impacts everyone’s day. In your team, give these teammates earlier deadlines than everyone else and if they don’t make it – start the meeting or event without them. And, remember, never count on them to bring the appetizer.
  • Dinner emcee – Uncle Tex has great stories, but when you can’t work in a prayer because of the non-stop monologue, it’s time to redirect the conversation. On your team, this behavior crowds out other voices and derails team engagement as a result. Talk to ‘your Tex’ privately and let him know that you value his input, but ask that he listen more and share less.
  • Over planner – The over-planner has the day broken down into 30 minute increments and guests aren’t allowed to bring dishes not on his menu. If you have team members that are too reliant on structure and overwork everything, give them assignments that require more flexibility. Help them think of multiple options, not just one way. It’s hard to collaborate with an over planner.
  • Arm chair quarterback – Holiday traditions can magically turn back the clock. The women cook dinner and the men watch football. If you have the family member who wants dinner held until half-time, runs in and eats and then runs back to the game, it’s time for a reminder that this isn’t a Mad Men script. On your team, watch out for stereotypes that affect who gets the high visibility, high stress assignment or the promotion. And, notice who is “unavailable” for the heavy lifting. These stereotypes and habits are easy to spot.
  • Under performer – This relative arrives late with a bag of chips she grabbed on the way over or brings in a half-eaten dish from the work potluck the day before. This under performer keeps the responsibility square on someone else’s shoulders while she stays on the sidelines. If you have team members that consistently under deliver explain that you need more because the entire team is covering for them and it will grow old.

Can you wait until next year?

As you celebrate your Thanksgiving this year with your family, accept and love the eccentricity.

If you have this same behavior on your workplace team, it will take a different game plan. After all, you can’t wait until next year.

This was originally published on PeopleResult’s Current blog.

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