Meeting Dynamics

This report analyses meeting dynamics and suggests practices to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of corporate meetings. The findings are based on a sociogram produced by observing a simulated meeting. Conclusions are drawn using communications theories. Findings suggest meeting dynamics are largely influenced by group members’ individual characteristics and the management of the meeting. The turn taking method, leadership style and encouragement of member participation were all contributing factors to the outcome of the decision making task.

Recommendations discussed include 1. A leader needs to outline the task, establish a turn taking method and model an effective decision making process. 2. Group members should encourage participation and explore other member’s contributions. The ramifications of these findings highlight the importance of a strong group leader and the responsibility of all members to create an environment that encourages member participation and constructive contribution. 2. Introduction Meetings are an important aspect of successful businesses.

Commonly used to clarify information and make decisions, meetings require effective group communication (Crossman, Bordia, & Mills, 2011). The dynamics of a group contribute to the productivity of a meeting (Van Auken, 1992). The aim of this report is to investigate the group dynamics of a simulated meeting. Using conclusions drawn from observing the simulated meeting, this report will also provide recommendations to improve the productivity of corporate meetings. 3. Methodology Participants were commerce students studying MGMT240 at the University of Canterbury in 2012.

Seven students were given a task question and asked to sit around a table and simulate a meeting. Data was collected by other MGMT240 students who observed the simulated meeting and recorded the number and direction of verbal exchanges during the ten minute exercise. The sociogram is attached (see appendix) 4. Observations 1. THE INITIAL EXCHANGES OF INFORMATION WERE CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE GROUP. 2. As an information seeker a female group member (F2) opened the meeting by asking the group questions relevant to the task.

She appeared to be the oldest member of the group and her seniority resulted in unopposed leadership. Throughout the developing conversation she assumed more of a director role and contributed less frequently, only to refocus the group when off topic. 3. A male (M4) seated at the head of the table used his prime position to contribute largely to the conversation. This member was an information giver as well as a supporter. Again he was one of the older members of the group. He often used nonverbal communication to support his interjections.

When addressing the group he leaned forward or moved his hands from his face to the table. When he spoke to a specific member he maintained eye contact as he supported their contributions with facts or his own opinions, often opening with “yes and ... ” From the head of the table he was the only member of the table who could clearly see every other member’s face. His feedback to his neighbours meant the bulk of the conversation is centred around him. 4. The majority of the communication occurred in the lower end of the table. This is possibly due to the higher concentration of members seated there.

Furthermore M4, the supporter was seated at the head of the table. 5. A female Asian student F1 was seated at the high end of the table and made no verbal contributions. She was never asked for her opinion directly. She also was the only member of the meeting who was not seated by at least one other person of the same gender. Language may be a barrier. 6. The male (M1) at the high end of the table whose contributions were humorous and non-serious initially was a player. Later in the conversation he provided more thoughtful insights. 7. M2 only made verbal contributions periodically.

His less confident contributions may have isolated F1 further. 8. M3 contributed more frequently nearer the end of the conversation. His confidence appeared to grow and he responded to the support of M4. 9. There was no effective turn taking method employed. Members tended to use an overlapping technique to enter the conversation. 10. The group size (7 members) was large enough for a healthy diversity but small enough so that each member had time to speak when they wanted to. 11. The meeting did not follow an effective decision making outline as

suggested by Berko, Wolvin & Wolvin (1998). There was no conclusive outcome and the meeting did not resolve the issue in the time given. 12. There was very little conflict. These subdued task conflicts seemed to be because differing statements were not further explored resulting in ineffective decision making (Schweiger, Sandberg, & Ragan, 1986). 13. There was no significant difference in contributions between genders. However side comments tended to be made between members of the same gender. 14. Many of the comments made were of an informal nature. 5. Conclusions

BY TAKING CONTROL OF THE MEETING FROM THE OUTSET THE INFORMAL GROUP LEADER HAD A HIGH LEVEL OF RESPECT AND ATTENTION TO LATER CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE CONVERSATION. AGE APPEARED TO BE A FACTOR IN ESTABLISHING GROUP ROLES. MEMBERS WITH EXPERTISE AND STRONG VERBAL AND NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION SKILLS RECEIVED ATTENTION BUT WITHOUT AN ACTIVE OPINION SEEKER LESS COMMUNICATIVE MEMBERS MAY HAVE BEEN LEFT OUT OF THE CONVERSATION. ADDITIONALLY THE LACK OF TURN TAKING EXCLUDED QUIETER MEMBERS FROM THE MEETING. The short time period of the meeting resulted in group development stages being omitted or rushed.

Using the model suggested by Tuckman (1965) the group did not thoroughly complete storming or norming and therefore was unable to cohesively perform or adjourn. An official group leader may result in more effective meetings and efficient decision making. The person seated at the head of the table will have the majority of the conversation directed towards them and therefore have a large influence on the outcome of the meeting. Task related conflict may also benefit decision making as it gives members an opportunity to further express their opinions and explain their reasoning (DeChurch & Marks, 2001)

Initially members were more comfortable providing information in a non-specific manner that did not require personal recognition from other group members. Confidence level may affect the role each person has in the group. These roles may change as the conversation develops and members gain more confidence to provide more serious or personal contributions. The supporter (M4) helped others to gain confidence when contributing to the conversation by feeding back points. Whereabouts on the table members were seated and who they were seated beside affected their likelihood to contribute to the conversation.

Although there was no significant differences in contributions, members of the same gender will communicate with each other more frequently than with members of the opposite gender. 6. Recommendations 1. AT THE HEAD OF THE TABLE GROUP LEADER SHOULD FOCUS THE CONVERSATION EARLY TO GAIN RESPECT AND ESTABLISH THE TONE OF THE MEETING. THEY SHOULD MANAGE THE MEETING EFFECTIVELY IN ORDER TO COMPLETE THE TASK(S) WITHIN THE SPECIFIED TIMEFRAME. 2. The group leader should establish a turn taking method to allow the conversation to flow and encourage everyone to contribute.

The leader should also manage conflict as to explore differing opinions. 3. All members of the group should encourage each other to speak. Reinforcing member’s comments will increase communicatively 4. Group members should use nonverbal communication such as physical cues to support their contributions when entering the conversation. 5. All group members should be aware of the effects of the groups’ characteristics and ensure that diversity is used to maximise potential. 6. Make allowances for language barriers.

Provide translators if necessary to ensure all members are able to understand and contribute to the meeting. 7. Attempt to physically separate less confident group members so everyone is surrounded by the conversation and the dynamics of the table is symmetrical. 7. Limitations 1. SOCIOGRAMS ARE AN EFFECTIVE METHOD OF CAPTURING VERBAL CONTRIBUTIONS TO MEETINGS HOWEVER DO NOT RECORD NON-VERBAL CONTRIBUTIONS MEANING THE RECORD MAY BE LACKING IN SIGNIFICANT ASPECTS OF THE GROUPS DYNAMICS. ADDITIONALLY WITH ONLY ONE PERSON RECORDING FOR THE DURATION IT WAS DIFFICULT TO RECORD ALL THE INTERACTIONS.

2. Group selection was intended to be random with an approximate gender balance but participants were allowed to sort themselves into groups. This means the selection was not random and there could have been underlying dynamics which affected the findings. 3. The participants had completed a Chinese Whispers task prior to the meeting simulation which may have affected the comfortableness of group members. 4. The conclusions and recommendations are intended for corporate meetings whilst the observations are made from a simulated meeting of university students.

The dynamics and formality of corporate meetings are likely to be different and therefore the findings of this report may be irrelevant. 8. References BERKO, R. M. , WOLVIN, A. D. , & WOLVIN, D. R. (1998). COMMUNICATING: A SOCIAL AND CAREER FOCUS, 7TH EDN. HOUGHTON MIFFLIN: BOSTON MA. Crossman, Bordia, & Mills. (2011). Business Communication: for the global age. NSW: McGraw-Hill Australia Pty Ltd. DeChurch, L. A. , & Marks, M. A. (2001). Maximizing the benefits of task conflict: The role of conflict management.

. International Journal of Conflict Management, 12(1), , 4-22. Schweiger, D. M. , Sandberg, W. R. , & Ragan, J. W. (1986). Group Approaches for Improving Strategic Decision Making: A Comparative Analysis of Dialectical Inquiry, Devil's Advocacy, and Consensus. The Academy of Management Journal , Vol. 29, No. 1 , 51-71. Tuckman, B. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, vol 63 , 384-399. Van Auken, P. M. (1992). Harnessing Group Dynamics for Greater Productivity. Supervisory Management, 37(1) , 6-6.