Managing the Meeting Hog

Ball Hogs & Meeting Hogs

Dave Berri over at Freakonomics recently came up with an interesting analogy between meetings and the NBA…yes the National Basketball Association. He argues that ball hogs and never-ending meetings suffer from the same problem: a combination of over confidence + under competence.

In basketball, ball hogs take too many of their team’s shots during a game even though they have a terrible true shooting percentage.

In meetings, meeting hogs have ideas for every solution and don’t stop talking, despite the fact that studies show their ideas aren’t always that good.

In both cases, people take the shotgun approach to success hoping that one of their shots/comments out of the dozen that miss will go in. In the process they bring down the effectiveness of the whole team.

But Ball Hogs Are Still the MVPs!

The problem isn’t just that these players end up missing a lot of shots they take. What’s dangerous is that these players are typically rewarded for this behavior with MVPs and promotions (same study).

What to do then? First, keep in mind it’s OK that our all star ball hogs take a lot of shots. This isn’t all bad – every team needs someone who’s not afraid to take that low probability shot at a chance of success.

Next, recognize the goal isn’t to stop the meeting hog’s ideas. Instead, think about ways to prevent them from bringing down the rest of the meeting. You know, by:

  • Wandering off topic
  • Monopolizing attention & blocking others’ ideas, and
  • Dragging meetings out much longer than they should be

Don’t Stop the Talking, Manage It
What next? Well, it’s important to strike a balance. Let these folks continue to come up with their ideas. Again, you need someone who’s not afraid to suggest some crazy solution that only has a 25% chance of working – because it might actually be the winner.

BUT! You must also make sure the rest of the team can vet these ideas and also come up with their own. And the best way to do that isn’t to stop the talking, but to manage it.

Looking for ideas on how to manage talking in a meeting? Check out Blake’s post on how to silence a talkative meeting attendee to get started!

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