Unruly meeting, Disciplined Response

May 24, 2011

Not all project management meetings go the way you plan. In the “Perfect Project Management World” we all hope to have, students that participate in the Scrum, CST, PM, or other training courses we offer are organized, well behaved, disciplined professionals looking to better themselves and their career.

However, the world is not perfect, and occasionally you will come across that one group that really tries your patience.

  • Talking in class.
  • Interrupting the instructor.
  • Destroying props (yes, believe it or not, some students right out of a bachelor’s degree can still act like 5 year olds)
  • Generally causing disruption

Any of these items sound familiar?

Well if you were a PM instructor, what would your response be?

  • To Talk over the students?
  • Ask them to raise their hands?
  • What if that doesn’t work?
  • Would you even address the situation? Perhaps you would ignore it.

Let me assure you, some kind of response is needed. That’s part of leadership. There is a major difference between allowing fellowship and networking amongst a group and facilitating disaster by being too lackadaisical in your approach to instruction. Here are some tips and some suggestions to make sure your next meeting stays focused, on track, and results in success for everyone involved.

1) Your behavior should demand respect, without using words.

a. Come up with a plan of action before hand to require attentiveness among the group. Raise your hand and stop talking when no one appears to be listening. Wait until the group at large has also stopped talking, and realized that they are not paying attention.

b. Call out individual class members and request that they pay attention. This works well if you can identify the ringleader and get that person’s attention. Typically the followers will then, well, follow.

c. If all else fails, use a blow horn or some other more direct form of communication. Do what works, be respectful of them as students, but remain in charge.

2) When you are teaching a class, you are in charge.

Your position of authority should be respected, and that means listening when you talk. Table talk should be recommended when it makes sense for an activity, but do not allow it in excess, particularly when you are giving a lecture or demonstrating a concept.

3) You are there to serve your students, and they are paying for this service.

You’ll undoubtedly be glad to take their money without them getting anything out of the meeting, but as a professional you came today to offer them something valuable in exchange for their tuition. As students of the class, particularly adult students, they are not there at anyone else’s instruction or demand. Each student signed him or herself up for your course, and should be there because you have a service to offer them. Even if their current employer is footing the bill, I doubt they want to return to the office with nothing but a good chat to show for their time. It is not out of place to remind them of this fact when necessary. You are there for them.

4) Remember your course is optional.

This isn’t Nazi Germany, no one has a gun to their head. You can walk out, and distracting students can be dismissed.

Some of these solutions may seem childish, but when your class starts to act like children, you may have to put on the elementary teacher hat to keep things running smoothly. Most professional groups will not behave with great abandon, but there are days where you will be surprised. Hopefully these tips will help keep your project management activities on track and successful, no matter who shows up.





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