Contentious Meetings Dysfunction or Success Factor

Are meetings your favourite activity?

Do your meetings resolve the important issues confronting the organization?

Are they a routine exercise marked by polite exchanges or do people forthrightly express their views and ask tough questions?




In the midst of celebrating their first win of a trophy in six years, Casemiro animatedly confronted Manchester United game captain Bruno Fernandes about his decision to go for goal himself instead of making the more obvious pass to Marcus Rashford.

Pundits have latched upon this as one of the pillars of the team's remarkable transformation. The open confrontation was deemed to be a critical display of passion, commitment and caring. Those are all ingredients of success.

This prompted me to get back on my hobby horse about the conduct of meetings.




I am persuaded that there is sometimes a greater focus on appearances than on rigorously examining issues in meetings. 

Animated discourse is discouraged because “it might appear as if we are quarrelling".

Consequently, participants are at pains to hide their feelings and strive never to display any passion. This distorts the true situation and may actually lead to faulty decisions.

Indeed, this practice of tamping down on open expression often fails to get to the root of complex and sensitive issues.

People are known to withdraw - sometimes physically - from discussions so as not to disturb the peace. The team then loses access to that team member's valuable perspective.

I remember being "reported" for my passionate response to comments in a Bible Study class that I was facilitating. It was either felt that I did not want to accept any input, or that animated discourse had no place in discussions among brethren.

Should we really discuss matters of the soul dispassionately?

But what about mission critical and survival issues facing your organization? 

Should how should they be addressed?

Should participants be clear that passion, confrontation and tough questioning are not welcome?



During passionate, transparent discussion it is not unnatural for people to speak a little louder and for their feelings to be observable in their mannerisms and body language.

At the same time, maintaining respect for each other and ensuring professional behaviour are imperatives.

Where does one draw the line?

If a really important issue is engaging two members, do we allow them to go right up to the line because of the value of the information being gleaned, or do we shut it down early for fear that they might cross the line?

What is the objective - fake harmony or unearthing core truths?



There are so many benefits to the team and organization from open, transparent discussion that I would prefer to run the risk of apparent dysfunction.

The most beneficial work that I do with teams are marked by the freedom to challenge and to defend viewpoints.

It is through the fire under the melting pot of ideas that truth is distilled and the inspiration to modify behaviour takes place.



I recommend three steps that will make a difference to the discussion of issues in your team:

  1. Invest in creating a culture in which open, honest and respectful communication is celebrated.

Coming from a place of shared objectives, professionalism and mutual respect team members are encouraged to share their views openly. There would be no need for simulation or for shutting down “for a peaceful life”.

  1. Support the development of a culture that embraces transparency, respectfully listening and responding appropriately to the views of each individual.

Clamp down on the use of embarrassment as a mechanism for silencing dissenting voices or to intimidate potential contributors to the discourse. This is a common D-Style practice that unfortunately succeeds with team members with an S-Style preference!

  1. Ensure that all voices are heard.

Put in place practices that avoid having one or two individuals dominating the discussion. The bigger challenge is to work at having the reluctant team members to share. Unfortunately, this might require some challenging moments as they are put on the spot.



We have found that our DISCerning Model of Communication with its granular behavioural DNA diagnostics instantly improves communication.

Accept my results or refund challenge to transform the effectiveness of your meetings through our “Meetings Mete Out Punishment” webinar/workshop.

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