One thing that has really struck me about running audio meetings is how easy it is for a meeting to descend into polite confusion. There are, indeed, some subtle changes that can either make or break a meeting held in this environment.
An obvious observation is to underestimate the time needed for the technology, Internet, routers, security to complete all their connecting processes. Downloading, uploading, handshaking, firewall checking will all add to the time.
On the other hand, it stuck me that it could be similar to walking over a bridge.
When I was a student in London the daily question was to decide what route I would take between my student digs and the lecture theatre. I had several options. But there was one defining landmark that was very important. It was the River Thames. Crossing this majestic river was like passing from one world to another. A way of clearing the world of the personal and focusing or re-adjusting my mind to my study. I liked standing on the bridge and enjoying the flowing stillness in-between. Hovering in a sort of fertile void.
I took this thinking into my workplace and, while walking to a meeting room, I would consider the river between my desk (conveniently secured by my in-tray) and the new discussion planned for the meeting (image of clouds is irresistible). The journey giving me time to pause in my mind… unless I was late!
Now, with the immediacy of technology, what can I do to keep a pause, some stillness, between all this on-line activity? Yes, it occurred to me that I could build in some time to reflect as part of my preparation for a meeting. But, I rather like the idea that technology’s busyness gives me time to walk over the bridge.
Time taken to pause, even if it is a few seconds, can be valuable. It could be the difference between a good idea and a great idea in your next meeting.
I have read with great interest the current debates on the importance of listening.
What has interested me for some time is the power of listening, real listening, just enjoying somebody’s thinking with no need to add or change or adapt the magic of their thoughts. I suppose I think that people deserve not to be interrupted from their own discoveries.
Steffan Harris in his presentation at TED.com illustrates that there is no wrong note in jazz, there is just an opportunity for a new piece of music. So, too, when somebody has space to think they are not necessarily thinking the wrong thing. Instead, they are thinking originally, creatively and independently in a way that is exactly right for them.
Listening is probably one of the most useful tools in my coaching box. I never cease to be amazed with the results. When I focus my intention on what they are going to say next without the need to comment they sense this and their confidence grows.
When I first met Nancy Kline and heard about the Thinking Environment model I was thrilled. At last, there was a process that named what I felt was right. The Thinking Environment invites a coach to keep in mind the vital components of good listening and the subtle signals that keep the thinker thinking afresh. She emphasized that our attention, when focused on where the Thinker will go next with their thinking, is much more exciting and unpredictable than we could ever imagine. In other words, we need to listen in a way that will ignite the human mind.
So the next time you are tempted to give your opinion as somebody is unraveling a thought do not succumb to the pressure to say something intelligent, relevant, or even catalytic. That the moment of clarity belongs to the person to whom you are listening.
If you would like to know more about how to use this model in coaching have a look at the Thinking Partnerships course. For on thing, you will know that it is a course where you will be truly heard.