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« 13. Chairing meetings: EQ tips on emotions »

Written by Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute. Author of "How to develop emotional resilience and manage your emotions".

It is often stated that leaders require high levels of emotional intelligence. This is certainly the case when they are having to chair a meeting, especially if they want everyone to have a fair hearing and to move through the agenda quickly and effectively.

Meetings are a hotspot for emotions. Emotions can be strong, varied, and if not managed really well, destructive.

The emotional fallout from badly chaired meetings can be high. Many Chairs I've seen have failed to control the meeting, have allowed certain people to dominate or allowed participants to go off the point.

As a consequence, people may leave feeling frustrated, angry, unheard, despondent or resentful. The upshot of this is that much time and productivity is wasted. This is not emotionally intelligent. Leaders who are chairing meetings need to bring a higher level of emotional intelligence to the situation.

It is the role of the Chair to be aware of the content under discussion but also to read and manage the people and their emotions. The emotions can impact on the whole process, both positively or negatively. The emotional context in which the meeting occurs is also under the influence of the Chair.

Want to improve your skills as an emotionally intelligent leader and be an excellent Chair? Then book into our smart leadership coaching package.

This article will look at ways for leaders to chair meetings in an emotionally intelligent and effective way whilst managing the emotions present. I have personally chaired many meetings and am passionate about meetings being an effective use of time and not a waste of time.

Emotional intelligence tip 1: Get everyone involved.

Have clear goals for yourself with regards to the standards you will follow in running a meeting. One of your responsibilities is to ensure that everyone contributes, and that all participants have the chance to get their points across, to agree or disagree with a motion and to be heard. Have this as your foundation goal.

Many Chairs that I have seen and worked with have not been clear as to what their role is. The result of this is that they are often not effective and they frustrate the members of the meeting. Frustration is a powerful, potentially destructive emotion and is not the goal.

Emotional intelligence tip 2: Manage your own emotions


As the Chairperson you are an important role model in a meeting. The participants will take their lead from you as to what is and is not allowed.  

If you are sitting there frustrated by some of the participants, agitated because things are not moving quickly enough, distracted because you're thinking about what happened earlier, you are not focused sufficiently well on what is happening.

You need to manage your own emotions, if you are to manage other people's.

This is paramount for running a meeting effectively.

  1. Ensure that you are able to stay calm even under pressure.
  2. Ensure you are able to recognise how you're feeling.
  3. Be able to express your feelings as required in an appropriate way within the meeting.
  4. Be able to manage and transform any emotions that are not helping.  

You need to be able to do all these things as a leader and the Chair. This is why emotional intelligence is important for you.

In order to develop your emotional intelligence even further, the tips and techniques on our DVD program "How to develop emotional resilience and manage your emotions" are recommended to you. 

Want to improve your skills as an emotionally intelligent leader and be an exxcellent Chair? Then book into our smart leadership coaching package.

Emotional intelligence tip 3: Give the quiet people a chance.

One of the key difficulties in chairing a meeting is that the more talkative Extraverted personality types can easily dominate the proceedings, unless the Chair is very aware and in control.

Extraverts generally like to talk things through, they often have louder voices than Introverts and they're often skilled at interrupting others and interjecting with their viewpoints.

If there are also Introverts attending the meeting, this amount of interaction, interruption and sound can reduce the chance of them participating effectively.

As a consequence, they may feel intimidated, dominated, or unheard. None of these are productive emotions in a meeting.

The level of emotional intelligence of the participants will obviously impact on their behaviour. However when these kinds of emotions exist people may withdraw and stop participating.

This does not help the Chair to move through the agenda quickly nor allow the meeting to benefit from the input of all people. The result of this can be that the wrong decisions are made or that some people may undermine the decisions made.

Your job as the Chair is to manage this situation fairly.

Notice who has not participated, stop the others from talking, and invite them, without interruptions, to have their say. 

EQ tip 4: Vote not drag.

Do not take silence amongst meeting members as approval. Even if people have not voiced opposition to opinions and information that is being expressed, it is important that the Chair not assume agreement.

Instead, ask everyone for a show of hands. I have been on committees/in meetings where some people have not said a word and then when a motion has been taken to the vote, he or she has surprised the rest of the committee by voting against the motion.

Some Chairs make a meeting drag on too long. One way to overcome this is to put the item to an initial testing vote to help everybody have a say. Having a say doesn't always have to be verbal.  

It is possible once things have been put to a testing vote to continue the discussion. Often I say something like "I'd just like to get an idea as to what you are all thinking about this item and to see what levels of agreement we have already reached. I'd like to take an initial test vote and decide whether we need to discuss it further or not."

Want to improve your skills as an emotionally intelligent leader and be an excellent Chair? Then book into our smart leadership coaching package.

EQ tip 5: Feed back people's opinions

Some people are not always clear when they put forward an opinion. Others explain themselves with clarity but they aren't fully heard because people's attention has wandered, or incorrect assumptions are made. It is important that people are understood fully.

Therefore, as the Chair, feed back what you think the key point is in a single sentence or so.

Not only can this ensure accurate understanding and help in minute-taking but it gives a clear message to participants that they have been heard, whether or not people agree with them.

Emotional intelligence tip 6: Provide a safe environment.

I see many kinds of responses in meetings. Some people talk a lot, some say nothing, and others mumble off to the side. Seldom is there a balance. This is unproductive. Your job as Chair is to both inspire and inform, to direct and control. All require good emotional intelligence skills.

As part of this you need to build a secure environment in which people feel safe to speak out, and you need to encourage people to be involved.

If you are the Chair think of yourself as the conductor of an orchestra. You can manage all the people by giving people turns, inviting people to comment, and keeping some quiet while others speak.

It is the responsibility of the Chair to encourage each member to speak at appropriate times and clearly, and to establish an emotional climate in which they feel safe to do this.

Be a high EI leader and develop your emotional intelligence now.

Want to improve your skills as an emotionally intelligent leader and be an excellent Chair? Then book into our smart leadership coaching package.