Meeting Villains: The Meeting Parrot

Continuing our series on Meeting villains,  today we are talking about The Meeting Parrot
Boat-drinks on the Beach:
You are sitting there in the cabana of the beach bar… you look out onto the white sand beach and see all of the shirtless tanned guys and women in their new designer bikinis enjoying the beautiful aquamarine sea.   You lounge back into your comfortable chair and feel the breeze gently blow through your hair.  You slowly sip your coconut rum beverage while your friend Patrick tells you a story.

You are suddenly annoyed. You realize that parrot in the cage above the bar keeps repeating everything you and Patrick are talking about.  They should really do something about that bird…
Then it happens… you snap out of your Day-Dream and realize that you are still stuck in your 3:30 Accounting Staff Meeting.  Patrick is talking about the status of the Q2 Marketing Budget Planning.Unfortunately the Parrot is still in the room:  Adam (from the Strategic Planning Team) is repeating everything that Patrick says.You think to yourself:   I don’t know what the Strategic Planning Team does, but Adam seems to attend a lot of meetings where he says a lot, and contributes exactly nothing.

Origin of the Meeting Parrot:
The quote from Saskya Pandita says “Much talking is the cause of danger. Silence is the means of avoiding misfortune. The talkative parrot is shut up in a cage. Other birds, without speech, fly freely about.

Unfortunately for you, no one has put your Meeting Parrot in a cage yet.   I am not advocating putting your Adam in a literal cage (although your meeting would flow a lot smoother).  We are advocating you learn how to identify a Meeting Parrot, and how to deal with their behavior in a constructive way.

The origin of the Meeting Parrot behavior can be attributed to many things, a few of the potential sources may be:

  • Your company has a culture where the Squeaky Wheel Gets the Attention  What can I say…  some people love attention and sometimes they are able to get attention by talking excessively in meetings.
  • The meeting parrot was formerly judged based on the amount of airtime they took up.  Maybe their boss told them during a previous performance review that “they need to speak up more“, and they interpreted this as needing to talk more (even if they have nothing original to say).
  • The Parrot is scared that people will think their job is useless, so they trying to sound important.  No one wants to feel that their participation in a meeting is useless, so they may try to gain validation by repeating what sounds like good points.

Putting a Muzzle on that Bird:

Here are a few tips for getting your Meeting Parrot to contribute more meaningful discussion to your meeting:

  1. Take good notes. Taking good notes makes it easy to call out someone who is repeating what has already been stated.  For example “Adam: per the notes, Jessica already said that and we all agreed on the next steps.  Is what you are saying different than what she already said?”  If you do this a few times, they will get the message that their repeated comments are not valued.
  2. Make the meeting parrot take good notes.  When someone takes notes, they are less likely repeat something that they have already written down.  In addition, if they need to validate their usefulness (see the third bullet point from above), taking quality notes is a good way to add value to a meeting.
  3. Don’t invite people who are not critical to the success of the meeting.   If the meeting parrot just detracts from your meeting without adding value don’t invite them.  For recommendations on controlling your invitee list re-read this post.

Sometimes you get stuck in a situation where the Meeting Parrot is one of your bosses.   Fed-Ex did a pretty good parody of this situation (see video below).  

If this happens to you, you are out of luck, you might want to read “What Color is your Parachute

Parrot Image from DeusXFlorida via Flickr

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