Beware the HiPPO – but there may be other dangerous beasts in your meeting

Beware the HiPPO – but there may be other dangerous beasts in your meeting

There are frightening stories of the havoc that the HiPPO (Highest paid person’s opinion) can wreak not just in meetings, but in the company as a whole. Rory Sutherland writes in Market Leader (Q3 2014) about his pet hate in research groups – ‘the Saab Driver, the loud, articulate, domineering, hyper-rationalist man’. HiPPOs have the same characteristics, and are more disruptive because of the power they wield by virtue of their position in the hierarchy. A skilled moderator can neutralise Mr Saab because group discussions are depoliticised. But if the loudest voice in the meeting belongs to the boss, there is not much room for the arguments and opinions of less ‘important’ people.
But meeting veterans can recognise other lethal mammals. Let’s move on to the PUMA (Pretty unmanageable apparatchik). Powerful, good looking. Bit of a loner, despite having risen as part of the system. Don’t be fooled by it being the only big cat not able to roar. It’s a dangerous predator, and one with sharp teeth.
The GIRAFFE has not only a long neck, but a brass one. In meetings they take numerous liberties, tend to digress, and want their own way.
You can recognise the SQUIRREL by its habit of leaping all over the place and then sitting on the fence
The TOAD, as its name suggests, is sycophantic and unusually subservient to whoever it judges to be the most powerful person in the room.
The POSSUM is normally unobtrusive, but has a nasty habit, particularly when hungry, of making a mess by rooting through rubbish bins – even worse when it opens Pandora’s Box!
The MULE is usually a valuable team member, offering the hard working ethic and resilience inherited from its donkey father alongside the speed and courage from its mother the mare. Because the mule is usually sterile it also concentrates on the matter in hand and doesn’t get distracted easily. Dangerous? Only to the more aggressive animals, whose unscrupulous efforts it can frustrate.
The HOWLER MONKEY is a menace. It’s voice makes nearly as much noise as a Boeing 737, and it can be heard 5km away. Famous for overtalking and interrupting, it can also do a line in filibustering. When not in meetings it mainly sleeps (80% of the time). Probably just as well.
No big meeting would be complete without a joker, and MEERKATS are well suited to the role. But they can easily become a distraction, and need careful handling. Simples.
Finally watch out for the HYENA. Famous for going on the attack, they are often written off as bullies and scavengers. Don’t underestimate how dangerous they are. They have seriously bad characters, and are killers.
The moral of the tale? Use those personality profiles that were probably filed away and not seen again once the recruitment process was finished. When inviting colleagues to a meeting, pay just as much attention to what each of them is, as to who they are and where they sit on the organisation chart.
Also remember that meeting etiquette and manners are even more important than what happens to be on the agenda.