121’s, performance reviews or just a standard meeting. How do you get the most out of your interactions at work?
In this article professional life consultant Oliver Martin gives some advice on how to draw out all the necessary dry facts of a meeting yet make it feel like a seamless interaction.
SERIA OSCAR CALLING ALL UNITS
It was called a G5. A routine call out for any uniformed police officer. Perhaps one every other set of shifts. The call from the call centre would come over the airwave;
“Seria Oscar calling all units, unit to attend Grade 2, G5.”
It was a mixed bag of feelings, thoughts and intrigue that had to be bottled up in order to prepare your mindset. Before replying;
“Echo Whiskey 101, assigned, please show as attending. Over.”
On the drive there, you may ask for some further information to help formulate an approach, prepare your mindset, grasp the legality and procedures that had to be followed and for me…. remembering my lines and imagery.
You see. When someone suddenly dies in front of their loved ones it’s not ordinarily the most pleasant of occasions; shock, sadness, anger, bitterness, frustration, heartache, loss and whatever other emotions you can list.
One thing for certain, within moments of passing away, administration is not at the forefront of priorities. This was my biggest fear. Not the body, the emotions, the scene, the family members or being able to cope. It was having to ask obvious, mundane administrative questions which were clearly used to populate a generic piece of paperwork. How do on earth do you show empathy and respect but ask these seemingly inappropriately timed questions….?
REHEARSAL, IMAGERY AND CREATIVITY
As a probationary officer in 2004, I was tasked with my first G5. I attended with a particular ‘old-school-cop’ who was known to have a fairly incredible degree of imagination and creativity when dealing with the odd crook. So I was somewhat intrigued to see his approach to this somewhat sombre task. Was this too slow paced for him? Would he wizz through with little respect in order to get back out and catch the bad guys? I hoped he wouldn’t as that wouldn’t be my style.
On entering the address we were met with a lovely lady, her husband of 50+ years had suddenly passed away. She was traumatised and we took time to care for her. Undertakers were arranged, they attended and removed the body. We organised for her friends and family to arrive and support her.
After sometime we left.
“Echo Whiskey 101 to Seria Oscar. Please show us standing down and returning to the station”.
PANIC, ANXIETY AND STRESS
Then my panic, anxiety and stress levels went through the roof as I realised that in the tension of the moment I had not asked one single administrative question that I was required to do. I had zero paperwork filled out. How on earth could I go back and bring up all those raw emotions all over again!? I was devastated because I felt I was not doing my best by the deceased nor his widow. I had not done me job.
My colleague was unnervingly calm. Pulled over the car and opened a dialogue with me that changed the way I approached difficult conversations for the rest of my life.
Ken, for all his ‘creative’ policing and maverick approach to life, was actually the most rehearsed professional I have ever met – why – because he had a love and respect for people which he placed before anything.
You see, yes there was no paperwork filled out, yes the admin questions had not been asked and yes not one pen had come in contact with our hands. Why? Because Ken had spent hours remembering procedures, rehearsing the admin questions and creating more imaginative ways to capture the same information without giving a hint of generic process that my distract or dilute the enormity of the scenario others were experiencing.
Even as his colleague, I had not realised that throughout his careful craft of conversation he had subtly gathered all the information we needed and retained it. Whilst sat in the car, he pulled out the clip board and filled out ten’s of questions with accuracy and confidence.
LEARN YOUR CRAFT
Why had he practiced? He wanted our interaction with the traumatised family to be ultra professional, ultra caring and ultra respectful. This meant, showing empathy, making eye contact, actively listening, being patient and being tactile.
As I did, he feared that our engagement made the passing of life an insignificant moment drawn down to data and recording statistics.
He explained all this to me. He captured my mind and reassured me that any predetermined, difficult conversation or environment could be handled in a respectful, purposeful way as long as you were prepared and imaginative in your delivery.
From there on, I learnt those ten’s of questions, I rehearsed the delivery and I imagined the environment I would be in. So when I was in it – I was ready.
Throughout my career, I attended countless sudden deaths and am proud to say I provided the best service I could possibly offer.
WHAT’S THE TAKEAWAY?
I see and experience 1-2-1’s and meetings in the corporate setting which also include dull, robotic, statistical questions which are delivered with as much interest as I have in eating mud. The outcome? Cold, disengaged and unmotivated workers who feel like a number on the wall.
As a manager and leader; prepare for your interactions, use imagery to place yourself in the environment and rehearse some imaginative questions to capture information. Furthermore, if you are empathetic, actively listen, make eye contact, be tactile, leave your laptop closed and put your pen away… you too will walk away from your interactions with a positive warmth and having inspired growth.