I raise my hand. I claim it. I confess. I’m guilty.

Truth – we all have annoying behaviors that derail meetings. Maybe you are an Advocator, Attacker, Blocker, or a Dominator (or another type I’ll write about in the coming weeks). Me? I’m … weIl … um … I’m the Horseplayer who uses humor to entertain or distract themselves or others.

People like me start side conversations, crack jokes, and make ridiculous comments. When others laugh at what they say, Horseplayers are inspired to continue disruptive behavior. Frankly, they can be a big pain in the butt.

If you’ve read my blog in the past few weeks, you know that all saboteur behavior—including the Horseplayer—stem from one of two things: fear or self-interest. For me, it’s mostly self-interest. I’m interested in excitement and if meetings are boring, I create my own excitement. Although my disruptive behavior may be good for me, it isn’t so good for meeting leaders and facilitators or for the others in a meeting. These are tips to maintain psychological safety and help people like me become better meeting participants.

  1. Ignore it. The worst thing you can do with a Horseplayer is to reinforce their behavior by giving them the attention they seek. Try to not acknowledge the behavior by what you say, do, or focus on. If no one engages in their fun albeit distracting actions, they will tend to self-manage.
  2. Assign them a task. Give them something to do so that they can be an active part of the meeting. Maybe ask them to be the notetaker, timekeeper, pass things out, or monitor the chatroom. Find something to keep them involved and busy. (During in-person meetings, I love to be the one who writing on the flipchart or setting the room up before the meeting.)
  3. Use humor to refocus them. If you have enough rapport with the Horseplayer and a high level of trust between the people in the meeting, feel free to use a little bit of humor. “Hey! Squirrel! It’s time to focus.” “As funny as you think you are, let’s get you off the stage and focus on the meeting.” “Obviously you have something very important to share. Why don’t you let us all in on it.” Note: if your team doesn’t have a high level of trust, humor or sarcasm can quickly damage any psychological safety that has been created. So, tread carefully with this tip and use it appropriately.

It’s okay to have fun in meetings. In fact, sometimes it’s the “fun” that feeds the creativity needed to solve problems and think differently.  But if the fun is preventing the group from accomplishing meeting objectives, it needs to stop.

P.S. I’m not nearly as much of a Horseplayer as I used to be. 😉

Have annoying Horseplayers like me in your meetings and need help managing them?  I can help. Just reach out