Sometimes, despite your best efforts at letting your team know ahead of time the meeting agenda and critical items to be discussed, inevitably, during the meeting a team member will bring up an issue or concern totally off topic.
Your initial impulse may very well be to squash the comment and move right along with the current agenda. However, do that enough, and you’ll have a number of unhappy, frustrated, employees who will eventually disengage from the team or project.
Instead, acknowledge your employee as suggested by Roger Schwarz:
“If the team has agreed on the topic to discuss and you still think that someone is off-track, say something like, “Lee, Iʼm not seeing how your point about outsourcing is related to the topic of our planning process. Help me understand, how are they related?” When Lee responds, you and other team members might learn about a connection between the two topics that you hadnʼt considered…If there is a connection, the team can decide whether it makes more sense to explore Leeʼs idea now or later. If it turns out that Leeʼs comment isnʼt related but is still relevant for the team, you can suggest placing it on a future agenda.”
By handling off-topic comments in this way, employees will feel valued, that their concerns and opinions matter, whether or not they can be dealt with in the moment.
The result? Happier employees, and meetings that are efficient and accomplish their stated goals.