Dan had been sitting in meetings for days, and this was the third round of several day-long meetings with the new department he had joined three months before. Near the end of the meeting, he raised his hand to offer this observation:
We have had a lot of days of meetings like today, and like today, we have the walls filled with flip charts of ideas and perspectives and analyses. But I fear that the same thing is going to happen as in previous all-day meetings — ideas are generated and written on charts and in the notes but nothing ever changes. No follow-through takes place and all of our brainstorming is of no use. That is really demotivating! Andrew, the Department Director to whom he was speaking, was visibly angered by Dan’s observation. Andrew retorted that their work was valuable and his process was working! Then, in front of the whole team, made sure that Dan knew he was out-of-line. Everyone in the meeting was intimidated into silence—even though all agreed with Dan, no one spoke up! Communicating ceased and the meeting was adjourned on an unhealthy note.
Meeting Ethos: The Golden Rules
This story borrowed from Baron Rush’s Social Awareness and Relational Management illustrates the importance of leaders using empathy to respond in moments of potential conflict, misunderstanding or bias.
The key elements of EQ are empathy and the ability to lead from the heart. Whenever in the presence of others in the workplace we must be aware of how we are perceived as perception informs our ability to motivate others.
Nowhere are perceptions more keen than when applying the principles of EQ to conduct productive meetings.
As new leaders, the key is to work within an understanding of your own and others’ emotional intelligence. Those who lead meetings must understand how to motivate productive participation. They must apply the golden rule as a basic principle to ensure meeting people in psychologically respectable and safe places.
In the above example, both Dan and Andrew lacked empathy–the willingness to step into the other’s shoes. Meetings should never devolve to participants feeling that they are not in an environment where opinions are encouraged. When you speak (verbal or non-verbal), empathy demands that you let your heart lead the way.
The era of managing by dictate is ending and is being replaced by an era of motivating by inspiration.
Motivational communication. Effective communication requires leaders analyze the audience to develop an appropriate strategy (Barrett, 2014) before responding (verbal and non-verbal) in meeting settings.
Pregnant pauses become the prelude to teaching and learning moments that can fundamentally shift communication dynamics to expose everyone’s personal best. Had Andrew taken a moment and dwelt within the pregnant pause he could have used those seconds to ethically connect with his heart and respond with tolerance, consideration and compassion.
Confucius said do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself. In essence, the true value of emotional intelligence lies in its use as a practice leaders can employ to transform others’ hearts. After all, effective and transforming communicators must be the example they wish to see in others.
Being aware of self and others provides communication leverage. When we are aware, we can frame our viewpoints in ways that are palatable, regardless of how difficult the message may be to deliver or hear.
EQ is critical in today’s workplace; it is part and parcel to high-level cultural awareness. As the renowned author James Baldwin promotes, we must face our deficiencies if we are to change. When we change our hearts, we positively impact personal and organizational outcomes.
Putting it all together. To get the most out of meetings, bring a compassionate heart. That’s not to suggest there won’t be conflict, but it is a method of personal regulation that promises awareness of self and others.
No matter the modality, facilitators are on display in every meeting setting. Good leaders project an image that exudes I am approachable and I care about what you think.
Barrett, D. (2014). Leadership Communication, 4th Edition. [Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved from https://online.vitalsource.com/#/books/1259755371/
Conger, J. A. (1991). Inspiring others: The language of leadership. The Executive, 5(1), 31.
Baldwin, J. (1962, January). As much truth as one can bear. The New York Times Book Review.