The Road to Abilene, that is the path that a group decides to travel, but no individual in their right mind would choose, can be avoided through Workability. It is a concept that I’m almost done explaining (I promise), which has an important dimension called Involvement. Simply put: Getting the right people in the room is essential to sanity and success.
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, Great by Choice, Good to Great in the Social Sector, and the little known Good Grief, an Inspiring Look at Charlie Brown’s Struggle through Rehab, has a wonderful metaphor for framing Involvement: The Bus.
As a marketing professional, look at your team building process as having three choices:
Here’s my guide to the 7 types of meeting personalities to kick off the bus:
The Violent Agreer - This lovely chap’s intensity of agreement ironically give’s everybody the impression that he must be against the topic in question, when in fact, he is just creating the illusion of passion and actually adding not a damn thing.
The Nay Sayer - This menace confuses disagreement and argument with progress and intelligence. No is ALWAYS easier than yes.
The Devil’s Advocate - Want to triple the length of a meeting? Then keep this dude in the room, because after hours of discussion, moot court will conclude with you realizing he never really believed his point of view. In fact, it is part of his cardio program.
The Blackberry - We all know this person. In fact, in one meeting or another, we are all this person. No texting while driving or working. Put a bowl in the room, and each time someone looks at their device have them put $5 in toward pizza.
The Politician - Career politicians can and do survive well out of their natural senatorial habitat in Washington. In fact, they are a hardy species that spreads like Kudzu, that nasty ivy that was supposed to cover the U.S. during the 80’s. (That and Killer Bees used to scare the hell out of me.)
The Eater - Quietly grazing the back counter of the conference room is the eager attendee, who always seems to be at any function in which food is offered. He is not fat nor thin, just always chewing. It seems the lack of talking is merely politeness, because no one want eggs salad dropping from his lips, which we all appreciate. However, it’s a cover. He is never going to really contribute, and when he does, he’ll do it by nodding impressively through a very large mouthful. So valiant. There’s a variant of this person, The Busy Eater, who wants to give the impression that he is so strapped for time that he had to push eating until this very moment, and he is so sorry he brought his lunch, and hopes you won’t mind the onion smell.
The Know-It-All - This one’s a tricky fellow. He is armed with having read half of everything, and has an “educated” opinion about it all. He has come to talk, not to listen. (Both are required for proper involvement). The dead give-away is that he hasn’t come with any relevent documents, pads, or writing instruments, and he seems not to need to breathe between sentences.
In my next post, I’ll discuss the 7 types of meeting personalities to keep on the bus and to maintain the magic. However, if you’ve weeded out the rogues gallery above, you’ll be well on your way to taking control of the wheel, and getting off The Road to Abilene.