Business Week has a short article about meeting seating dynamics. (Image from Businessweek.com)
I've read about this before. I agree with it to some extent, however, something that I think the article doesn't mention, that I have noticed, is that peoples' seating may change based on the subject of the meeting and their role within the group. I think about meetings that I have been in where my role was to observe more than participate and that's a very good reason to sit on the side-lines so someone else can pull up to the table and engage. I've pretty much sat in every one of those seats in the graphic for one reason or another. I admit that the few times I've had in-person team meetings with my folks, I do sit facing the door. I hate being so predictable. Next time, I'm going to mix it up just because.
Interestingly, since my team works from home, I notice some interesting things on conference calls as well. Obviously, without visual cues, you have less to go on and sometimes you have to call on people to share their opinions. It's just one of those things that you have to do to have a successful field-based team. Sometimes, the degree to which one participates depends on how they are feeling about their work at the moment; quieter = less engaged (we all go through those peaks and valleys of motivation, right?). Having an exciting project can really change how you think about all of your work and how you participate with your team. I could come up with a new list of players for phone meetings: the interrupter, the joker, the multi-tasker, The note taker, the person running the sink (you hope). Not to freak my team members out that I am paying attention to this kind of stuff, but of course I am. Every manager should just from a standpoint of understanding where people are coming from and what you can to to help them operate to their best potential.