Thursday, October 16, 2008

Organizing Papers as a Sign of Checking Out of a Meeting

One sure sign that someone has given up hope on the success of a meeting is the paper-organizing move. Let me describe it. It starts with the participant making a final, impassioned plea on some position. This plea doesn't get the response hoped for.

Now our meeting participant does the paper-organizing move:

  • He turns his body away from the speaker to his pile of papers and notebooks.
  • He slowly and deliberately organizes them into a neat pile.
  • Then sets the pile on the table, positioned ever so slightly toward the door.
  • Clasping his hands together he sits back in his chair, nearly at attention, as if his full focus were on the current speaker.

The paper-organizing move happens too frequently in meetings. It's meaning is clear: it shows that our meeting participant has lost hope in getting what he wants out of the meeting, and he has checked out. Not that all meeting have to end with everyone happy, but I'd call this an unsatisfactory ending. When a meeting has reached this point, it is frequently too late for the leader to do anything to fix it on the spot. Hopefully, though, recognizing the paper-organizing move gives you an opportunity to deal with the issues that caused it.

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