There are times as a facilitator or meeting planner, you end up being the truthsayer in the room. This can be an uncomfortable position, but if you are coming in as an outsider to help a company strategize, vision or gamestorm, it’s one of the ways you bring value. But if you have been the truthsayer before you know it certainly isn’t always easy.
Recently I found myself in a meeting where I got caught up in the “system.” We got to the part of the session where we were coming to conclusion about what the best strategies might be, and the leader of the organization wanted to push her agenda. No matter which way I turned the conversation to allow other people’s ideas to rise to the top, it came back to this “my way or the highway.” I started to feel uncomfortable and pushed around, but I had been traveling for a number of days and just wasn’t as on top of things as usual, so I succumbed. I call this “rolling over and playing dead”, which means I didn’t stop the conversation or ask a question, I just let it happen. bah. humbug.
Calling out the truth, slowing down the pace and allowing other people the chance to speak up can break the team’s trend, disrupt the norm and create a new neural pathway in the systemic thinking of the group. In this particular session, I wasn’t sharp enough to catch it, so I had to go back to that later and talk it over with the leader and coach her in other behaviors.
How do you speak up when things start to feel pushy or weird? One first step is to state, in a non-emotional way, what you are actually experiencing, (Own it yourself) and then ask a question about it. “Something is happening here, I feel like people have started pulling back, is this how things usually go? Do other people feel that? Can someone tell me what is happening?” Here I am not pointing any fingers, just commenting and being curious. If I wanted to help shift what I was experiencing when the leader was pushing her agenda, I might have said, “Okay, I know that you are the CEO here, so that means you have the final say, is this where you want to use it?” This way I am pointing out, without judgment, what is happening and offering the opportunity for the leader to shift.
It takes courage to speak the truth in the room, especially if you are a team player in that system day in and day out. Why settle for the norm? It is better for you and your team in the long run if you simply and gently start speaking the truth. It builds your internal trust and also gives your team the opportunity to shift into something new.
At the recent CACE Annual Meeting, participants show off their Vision to Reality maps. Each team used their map to create the strategy for how they might expand their membership and infuse what they were doing with new ideas and strategies.