Speaking the Same Language
A friend of SCC forwarded along an article that captures the creatures you meet in both the average and important meetings for your organization.
The characters, or creatures, in this blog post resonated with us because we can see ourselves in one or more of the archetypes described (to be honest – I’m a mix of a Sally and a Larry, but a self-aware Larry who wishes others would realize I was one).
But on top of the creatures, what this article truly captures is the lack of communication that can derail even the best meetings and intentions. It can be easy to be stuck within ruts and roles, where each person in that meeting isn’t communicating their own needs. But just as importantly, in falling into these traps and roles, your team isn’t effectively communicating the best interests of the organization.
These meetings break down because of a key reason – no one is speaking the same language. Larry is subtlety trying to indicate that they aren’t needed in the current discussion by working throughout. Chatty Patty is likely overcompensating for a lack of preparedness for the conversation by talking to no end. Two of the characters identified as crucial are literally people who translate and synthesize information so that others can understand – so that everyone in the meeting can speak the same language.
The downside of hosting meetings with key stakeholders that are speaking different languages isn’t just inefficiency. Whether these meetings involve staff, volunteers, fundraisers, or a board of directors, you run the risk of alienating your cast of characters by not identifying their individual perspectives. It is not enough just to be able to identify these creatures – it is necessary to also take advantage of the skills and knowledge of people in the room to more effectively help the organization, even if that means they get kicked out of the meeting.
Larry might not be the most useful in the meeting you are hosting, but he/she might be crucial in solving a crisis elsewhere in the organization. Patty may be taking up so much time in your meeting, but likely can build relationships with other stakeholders by his/her ability to hold court for long periods of time. The key is identifying strengths rather than weaknesses, and determining how that role fits within your organizational goals. To understand if your meeting needs these voices, and how best to appreciate and cultivate their perspectives within the decisions you need to make. To put each participant in the best situation to communicate their perspective in a way to improve the organization.
Why is each person in the room? Why is the meeting being held? Meetings should never be a one way conversation. Decisions should not be made without consultation of important parties. But understanding the value of inputs, and your own understanding of cultivating these perspectives, is crucial not only to meeting efficacy, but to organization morale and functionality. When hosting an important meeting, everyone in the room needs to not only be on the same proverbial page, but at the very least needs to be speaking the same language. And it is up to you to manage this process.
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