So, at first I believed the main point behind my workshops was the information I shared with the participants. In time I began to realize that what I had to say was not as important as the way the audience felt towards me. Much of this had to do with what the leader that employed me said to their staff in preparation of my first visit. Beyond initial introduction and exposure, and this mostly from the leader, what made the important difference was the staff’s personal perception of me and this took time and was uniquely individual. Not understanding this at the beginning of my consultant work meant that I depended most on the material I presented. It did not take long for me to realize that people needed to feel safe and that they felt their comments were welcome.
I sought this, but also recognized that participation would take time. It was also apparent there was always a few that would risk being open and direct with their questions or observations. These few had no problem expressing their opinions and often how they felt about issues I may have brought up. Dealing with feelings is important and I invited the sharing of what they felt. The expression of “this is what I heard or read” is far less important than getting one to express what they felt because it is feelings that influence behavior. Also, agreement with what I said was not a condition of our dialogue. I made this apparent and obvious whenever possible.
Being authentic and authoritative whenever I would refer to any of my resources was important, but so is listening to and my respect for what staff had to say whether through personal experience or what they heard or read. I did my best to not judge what people said whether in agreement or not. Participation is what I sought.
As I write above it was usually only a few participants that openly shared their thoughts and feelings without my pushing and pulling words from them. It took time, but these few always seemed to have enough influence to bring others into the conversation. Also, I did not question why most people remain silent for as long as they do. As I have commented in past papers this reluctance to express ones self begins around the “kitchen table” and remain a possible problem even into adulthood. In any case, and certainly with the help of those that spoke out freely, the non-communicators would begin to drop their guard and join in. I learned that being open, sharing thoughts and feelings is difficult for many, but that speaking out is a “freeing experience.” Everyone has something to say, something to contribute and in the right environment, given the support, will overcome their past and scar tissue and will speak out.
As individuals moved towards openness, courage to be self and taking on greater responsibilities the major credit must go to the leader and the leader’s willingness to grow from traditional hierarchy and top down communication to one that empowers others. Leaders began to understand the weight of their power on the behavior of their staff and instead of using and abusing others they began to listen, understand, welcome candor and actually enjoy dialogue with their staff for (perhaps) the first time.
Bluntly, what was monologue between a boss and an employee became dialogue between equals. The experience became fulfilling to the point that being at work meant being with family. What was “my problem” became “our” problem and so much easier to deal with Sy
As family I belong—-I am heard and mostly understood——I am me, you, you.