Think about the meetings you attend.
How many people do you know who waffle on, fill the silence, finish people’s sentences, feel the need to tell everyone how smart they are (in a round-about way, of course –all that humblebragging on LinkedIn and elsewhere!)…. What about the people who stay silent, play ‘victim’ and blame others for everything?
If there’s a hint of self- recognition there, there’s an experiment I’d love you to try. It’s all about OBSERVATION (This is your FIRST STEP).
This experiment is best done in a small meeting that you are not chairing. Ideally it would be a meeting that you attend fairly regularly.
Your role in this meeting is to watch and observe AND as we coaches like to say a lot… ‘to be curious without judgement’. The purpose is simply to tune your antennae and to practise reading the room – so that you start to notice things that would normally pass you by.
The 80/20 rule applies here.
You need to listen for 80% of the time and speak only for 20%. Here are ten things to pay attention to:
- Imagine you are looking down at the meeting in your helicopter. What do you notice? Is everyone there on time? Are people prepared? Does everybody sit in the same place as they sat last time and the time before?
- Look at each person in turn. Notice their body language (but don’t assume that you can interpret what it means – try to do so at your peril!).
- Notice everyone’s contribution, or not, to the meeting.
- Notice who just repeats what someone else says and adds nothing new.
- Tune into your own feelings and emotions. Do you feel bored? Energised? Excited? Impatient?
- Notice connections or conflict, spoken or unspoken, between others.
- Notice how people listen to others and respond to others (interrupting, sighing, rolling eyes, nodding head….)
- Do people commit to things but as they commit you know, in your heart, that they are not really committed (and therefore they won’t deliver?)
- If you could describe the meeting metaphorically, how would you describe it (one leader who carried out this experiment described the meeting as a ‘game of two halves with only one half on the pitch’).
- What else do you notice that you have not tuned in to before?
This is your first experiment in ‘reading a room’ and focusing on others rather than yourself.
- What new insights have you got?
- What data is in the room that might be important – but you’ve never noticed it before?
- What have you learned about what you might need to pay attention to in your own interactions?
- How might observing all of this help you to improve your own influence and impact?
- How can you effect change? (More on this next week)