I attended a meeting today that was a real surprise. Â It was a room full of very serious business men all in ties and power suits, a couple of women in their power suits with skirts, and me in my flashy, brightly-colored tunic top and jeans. And yes of course, I had something on that sparkled. So right from the get go I’m the odd one out. Whatever. I’m good with it.
So the meeting starts and the facilitator says, “since everyone knows everyone else” and then pauses and looks around the room. Â So I said no, I didn’t know anyone in the room. Turns out, NO ONE knew anyone in the room! But not one of those very professional people who were dressed so powerfully said anything. In fact, after the meeting, they THANKED me for being the one to say something. Â Are you kidding me?
I have to tell you, I’m always the one to ask questions. In fact, I have been to meetings where friends have passed me notes with questions on them since they know it doesn’t bother me to ask. Â But I know because I’ve checked, that just about 98% of the time I ask a question, someone else had the same one. But it wasn’t like we were fighting to get our question out. I asked, the other person sat there, wondering.
So what is this about? What a bizarre situation to be in a meeting, have a question but not ask it. Â Is it truly fear? Â But of what? Â Someone once told me he didn’t ask a question on a tour we were on because he didn’t want to sound stupid (while he was thanking me for asking the question). Â So I asked him, did I look stupid? Obviously he didn’t think so because he wouldn’t have thanked me otherwise!
My friend Maia would probably tell me it is a matter of attention. If I have a question and I’m thinking about the consequences of asking it, I’m focused on ME. If I have a question and I’m more concerned about getting the information the room needs out, I’m focused outwardly. (and by the way, being one of the smartest ladies I know, I would be thrilled to hear her say it!) Â And I think that is the real way to frame this because I really don’t think people feel true “fear” when asking a question but I do think their attention is focused on themselves and their role in the room rather than on the goal of the event or meeting.
So now that I’ve worked through that process, I ask you. Â What do you think? When you are in a meeting, are you focused on you or on the meeting? Â Do you ask questions? And how do we help people ask those questions they need answered so they don’t get left behind? Â Not to mention could this mean the end of the meeting after the meeting?