Do you dread going to meetings where Us versus Them mindset prevails? The Elephants in the Room are alive and well. Those meetings can translate into any forum in which people with differing disciplines and/or perspectives:
- don’t get along very well with each other;
- don’t respect one another;
- aren’t interested in listening to or learning from each other; and/or
- aren’t focused on moving things forward productively and profitably.
How much of your work week is spent attending these types of meetings?
Part of meeting preparation involves identifying the Elephants in the Room. Be proactive and anticipatory of the baggage and bias you and your colleagues haul around with you each day. If you don’t leave this stuff out of the meeting, your forum can become littered with pachyderms lumbering around and getting in the way of forward momentum.
What do the various elephants look like in your company, your customers’ companies, institutions and classrooms? These elephants in the room carry all the stuff that you avoid discussing or won’t discuss honestly. Perhaps the first order of business when preparing for meetings is to make a list of all the elephants which inevitably will show up. You can’t deter what you won’t acknowledge.
By anticipating their arrival, you can make it less than desirable for the elephants to show up. Since no one wants to talk about these elephants, your first step is to seek out and speak with meeting participants ahead of time. Oftentimes, these elephant-draggers don’t understand how detrimental their commitment to past history is to the forward progress of their company. Determine their history and context. Let them exorcise their baggage. Gain their buy-in to leave their “stuff” in their own offices.
By determining the history and context that preserves these elephants in the room, you can change the context of the meeting. No historical context, no elephants. There usually is a word-trigger during meetings which sets off participants talking about ancient history that created Us versus Them mindset. Choreograph your meeting so there’s very little opportunity for anyone to steer the meeting “there.” You already have obtained buy-in that the elephant-draggers will defer rather than plunge into historical melodrama.
- Anticipate the context and history the elephants in the room.
- Diffuse their disruptive energy; direct them elsewhere.
- Employ a different perspective for your meeting agenda.
- Shift everyone out of their biased comfort level.
- Engage them in collaborative and productive discussion.
Your meeting participants, even those former elephant-draggers, will thank you for planning your agenda with this new perspective. You have just liberated them from their own, often self-imposed, status quo behavior set.
Now, which elephants in the room do you plan on tackling this month?
Babette Ten Haken is a catalyst. She writes, speaks, consults and coaches about how cross-functional sales operations team collaboration revolutionizes the industrial Internet of Things value chain for customer loyalty, customer success and customer retention. She connects the dots between leadership, human capital / HR strategy and developing a data-driven, team-based workforce committed to creating enduring business outcomes. Babette’s playbook of technical / non-technical collaboration hacks, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon.