Employing Differences

Employing Differences, Episode 32: What is in the room?

December 22, 2020 Karen Gimnig & Paul Tevis
Employing Differences
Employing Differences, Episode 32: What is in the room?
Chapters
Employing Differences
Employing Differences, Episode 32: What is in the room?
Dec 22, 2020
Karen Gimnig & Paul Tevis

"I think it's important to be able to show up as your whole self, and then to make conscious and informed choices about what it is useful and productive to disclose about that. Because when we first come to understand what is in the room for us, and then are able to name what's relevant for other people to know about what's in the room, then I think we can make much more effective use of our time together."

Listen on the website and read the transcript

Watch this episode on YouTube

Show Notes Transcript

"I think it's important to be able to show up as your whole self, and then to make conscious and informed choices about what it is useful and productive to disclose about that. Because when we first come to understand what is in the room for us, and then are able to name what's relevant for other people to know about what's in the room, then I think we can make much more effective use of our time together."

Listen on the website and read the transcript

Watch this episode on YouTube

Karen:

Welcome to Employing Differences, a conversation about the collaborative space between individuals.

Paul:

I'm Paul Tevis.

Karen:

And I'm Karen Gimnig.

Paul:

Each episode, we start with a question and we see where it takes us. This week's question is, "What is in the room?"

Karen:

So we're looking at what comes into the room that we might not notice. So, right, the obvious, tangible is there are these people at a whiteboard and that sort of thing, and we're assuming you've got that. But what's more interesting that than that we're getting at this week is what else shows up. So if you plan your agenda, and you've got your topics, and this is what we think we're going to talk about what else is there? Because when you've got people in the room, they bring stuff and the broader context brings stuff. So we're recording this, the day after the election, so November 4, 2020. And we've been talking to clients who have been planning meetings last night, and you know, this week, and as we're looking at our work, looking ahead and thinking about, okay, so what we know, we know, there's going to be a level of anxiety around in the broader world, there's going to be a certain amount of uncertainty, we're still sitting with not having a result yet, in terms of the presidential election, and just a lot of intensity and emotion around that and to expect that your meeting is going to happen without any impact from that to us seems unrealistic. So what else is in the room, besides the things you thought were going to be there?

Paul:

Yeah. There is often a temptation to say, "Hey, we want to leave X at the door." Even when you acknowledge that this thing might be an influence. Like, "We want to leave politics at the door." We want this be a space where you don't have to worry about these things, where you can just focus on the work that you want to do. That's a really nice idea. And it doesn't work. And in fact, trying to compartmentalize and trying to marginalize any of those hopes, fears, concerns, anxieties around whatever else is going on outside the room, by trying to push all those things and ignore the fact that they could be coming into the room is counterproductive. It actually makes it worse. And so I think there is a really key skill of being able to acknowledge what has come into the room, sometimes when it comes in unexpectedly, and uninvitedly. And that isn't just broader cultural things. Obviously, the election's in the room with us here today, even though we are in two separate rooms and in two separate states. And we could kind of predict that. But there may be any number of other unpredictable things that could show up at any particular point. And you know, the vernacular around this is sometimes you know, about being able to name the elephant in the room. The thing that everybody acknowledges, and no one is willing to talk about. Everyone knows it's there. But I think it's trickier than that. I think there are things where maybe only one or two people know that it's there, and they're acting in a way that other people sort of go, "Wait, what's going on here, this doesn't make any sense." When we all know the elephant is there, it's easier for us to all address it. But when only one or two of us somebody's got a weasel, somebody's got a rhinoceros, somebody else has some other animal that's causing destruction, and the rest of the group has no idea what's going on, then it becomes even stranger.

Karen:

And I think there's a whole range of ways that we might respond or acknowledge or work with. And really, this is a discernment piece of what's going to work in this case, Because what's in the room, it could be a similar work experience that went badly or a similar work experience that went well and has some expectations attached to that. It could be that somebody's 15-year-old dog died this morning, or something happened. It could be that the thing to do is nurture that person or that thing or like hold space for that in this moment, or that could be the last thing they want and the thing is to go ahead and move on. I had an experience many years ago where I was late to work because I had a miscarriage but it was an early miscarriage and it wasn't a big deal to me and I spent the whole day with people saying you know, "It's okay to be upset about that." And I was like, "Is it okay to not be?" So it's not a one size fits all, or here's the formula that tells us how to plug into it. But it's really helpful. So it might just be "Okay, we hear that. Like we get that you may be different and you may not be your whole self, and we're gonna sort of be aware, like, it's just an awareness. And that's okay. Yeah, maybe a, "Okay, let's pause and think about what you know, like that should shift what we do, we need to have a conversation about that." And so I think just having some flexibility, and especially if it's something that relates to one person in particular, whether because they're the one who's most upset about it, like the election, some people are going to be much more engaged about that others are really not thinking about it as much. So it may be engaging with the one person who really needs that engagement. It may be let's reschedule this meeting, like this is not the day we can have that meeting. And it may be okay, we know, and we care, and we're here for you. And it sounds like it's good to just we are going to keep going. And you know, with a little bit of awareness, actually, we are going to mostly set it aside. And because we've named it we can. So I think any of those options is really reasonable.

Paul:

Yeah. You mentioned the word discernment, and that's really true. There isn't a one size fits all for this. It's specific to the group, and it's specific to whatever the thing is. And so the more that your group actually practices this skill, of being able to name what's going on for one person or for multiple people, or for the whole group and then say, "So given that, what is useful for us to do?" and to have a conversation about it. So being able to, you know, in an extremely minor example, and on one end of the spectrum, I had a co worker at one point who just in a one-on-one meeting, turned to me and said, "Just see, you know, I have a terrible migraine right now." And she says, "So if I seem a little off, that's why." She didn't need me to do anything. And quite frankly, there wasn't anything I really she was like, you know, do you want to continue, but she's like, now we can work through this. This is fine. Let's have this meeting. Let's, let's figure it out. Let's go. Right. But me knowing what was going on with her meant that I didn't ascribe all sorts of things to Like, I didn't think I was annoying her. Right, which is what I might have thought, if I hadn't known that. But we were able to have a brief conversation about that and go, okay, there's they're really awareness is the only thing we did we don't actually need to do anything different about this. It meant that then when we had other conversations, where it's like, "Hey, I'm really concerned about this development that's happening in the company." "I'm also concerned about that thing. What do we need to talk through, so that we can then focus on the work that we need to do?" Building that practice of acknowledging what is going on and then deciding what you want to do about it is really useful, because it means that if you do it when it's low stakes and practice it, you can do it better when it's high stakes. And I will do that sometimes with teams, like often when they're kicking off projects, or they're starting to work on on things together. I will ask them about what are things that might come up as you're working on this? I'm not saying that they're present in the room right now. But what are things that might come up in the future that might impact this work? I did this once with the team where, where they were kicking off a new project, and I just kind of asked that I explained sort of the reason behind some of this. And they said, "Yeah, so one of the things you need to know is the last project that half of us worked on together? This is how it went, and this is why that didn't sit very well with us. So we may be a little reactive about those kinds of things when we are on this project." And the other half of the people in the room went, "Oh, really?" And so then they got to actually have a conversation about "When those kinds of things come up, what do we want to do about it?" In some ways, it's "Forewarned is forearmed," but the idea that if we are able to talk about what is present or what might become present, then we can decide how we want to be with it when it does show up.

Karen:

Yeah, I think you're pointing at sort of a macro level of we can think about it ahead and when we're planning and that that level, which makes perfect sense. I'll take it one level more macro and then kind of go a little more micro. So one level more macro is in order for this to work, you have to have a culture within which this works. So that's what you're talking about about it's okay to say "I have a migraine" or "I'm distracted," or "This great thing just happened to me and I'm distracted," or "I have a lot of energy for this project, and I'm just really passionate about it, and it matters to me, and I'm going to be irritated, if you're distracted." Like, whatever, that it's okay to show up with all of who I am. So that broader culture is the more macro. And then looking at sort of the release sort of micro version, which is that I'm having a bad day thing or whatever might not not be predictable, not be big, overarching. How do you discover those? And I think a big piece of that is to have a practice of check-in that some version of when you gather, and there's been any kind of space between, certainly at the start of the day, or the start of a weekend, to pause and say, how are we all arriving, in a way that doesn't take over the meeting, I mean, in a way that's appropriate to the amount of time that you have, but also with a culture that says, you know, hey, if you don't have anything, that's fine, you just pass maybe, or maybe it's important for each of us to hear a little something from you every time. But also that it really is okay to say, "This is the thing that happened to me that I'm showing up with today." And, then to navigate that so that your check in is long enough to do what it needs to do to bring awareness to what's in the room, but doesn't just become social hour. So you actually have that productive efficiency time that you need. And again, that's a discernment piece, there's not one size fits all, what works for every group, but I think check in practices are pretty essential piece of this.

Paul:

One of the things that I've been asking a lot of my coaching clients recently, as we begin is, "What do you need to do or say, in order to be fully present for the work we're about to do?" And with that, because it's one-on-one, like it's a very reflective space, you know, it's useful. And in groups where we're working together, and it's maybe not quite so reflective or so intense or so personal, that wouldn't be the right way to open. I find, it's really useful for people to have a moment to connect with themselves, because I don't always realize what's going on with me in the moment unless I take a moment and slow down and go, "How am I arriving?" "Oh, I'm noticing I'm really distracted. I'm feeling myself reach for my cell phone so that I can check the election results." I might not notice that but i but my hand is totally doing it. So giving people an opportunity, one, t just check in with themselves t see where are they at. And the two, to disclose any of that th t they feel is relevant and usef l for the group. I've been worki g a lot with this idea of showi g up as your whole self. I thi k it's important to be able o show up as your whole self, a d then to make conscious a d informed choices about what t is useful and productive o disclose about that. Becau e when we first come to understa d what is in the room for us, a d then are able to name what s relevant for other people o know about what's in the roo , then I think we can make mu h more effective use of our ti e togethe

Karen:

Just to sort of tie it all together, I think first we're saying be aware of what's in the room. Do not assume that you can simply shut out the things you'd rather weren't there. Invite the full self of everyone. Create a culture where that's welcome. Use discernment about how to respond to it. And as a sort of base practice, a check-in is a really great way to get there.

Paul:

Well, on the flip side from the check in, I think it's time for us to check out. So that's going to do it for us today. Until next time, I'm Paul Tevis.

Karen:

And I'm Karen Gimnig. And this has been Employing Differences.