Taking the temperature of the room doesn’t mean too hot or too cold. It means taking the emotional temperature of the people in the room. Taking the emotional temperature gives you an edge to enhance productivity. Here’s an example.
It was an exhausting meeting, but we knew it would be exhausting. The strategic planning discussion would set the future direction and tone for the organization.
We started by taking the temperature in the room. “Before we begin, let’s check in. How do you feel as we start this strategic discussion?” Around the room we heard: “optimistic, guarded, enthusiastic, hopeful, anxious”.
We took the emotional temperature again at the end of the meeting. “As we wrap up the discussion, how do you feel about where our strategic discussion ended?” This time… “Satisfied, overwhelmed, encouraged, worried, energized.”
How is it helpful to take the emotional temperature?
All meetings and conversations have an emotional component. It’s the way we are designed as humans. We feel first and think second. The emotional state of the people in the room impacts the nature of their participation, the outcome of the discussion and future productivity. You can either gain intelligence about the emotional state in the room or find out about it (or not) outside of the room from hallway conversations. It’s best to know it in the moment so that you can manage more effectively. When possible, we like to be as dynamic and interesting as we can be when leading meetings, and I know many leaders that choose to make use of tools such as a Writey stickon whiteboard for their meetings. However, depending on the emotional state of everybody involved in the meeting, this is not always possible.
In a well-planned meeting, you thought through the purpose, you have an agenda and you manage the discussion. But, all meetings and conversations have an emotional undertone which we often overlook. Just as you would get facts on the table, it’s best to get emotional content on the table, too. It’s not hard to do. The simple question that I offered in my strategic planning meeting does the trick. Stating the emotional state of mind up front and at the end serves two functions.
For individuals. The emotional state of each participant is at work under the surface. That emotion colors participants’ decision-making, engagement level and their motivation during and after the discussion. When you ask them to voice their emotional state it brings the emotion into focus for them. When they state it out loud, it validates the feeling and lessens the impact. (Research shows that validation of feeling reduces the brain’s threat response.)
For leaders. As the meeting leader, when you take the emotional temperature at the beginning of a meeting, you gain critical information that allows you to more adeptly manage the meeting. When I hear someone say “enthusiastic,” I know to engage them so that their enthusiasm impacts others. When I hear, “concern,” I know to listen closely to understand more. At the end of the meeting, if I still hear “concern” or “overwhelm,” I know to follow up and learn more so that we are more likely to attain the objective.
Try taking the temperature before and after your next important meeting. Notice the additional information it gives you to more effectively manage the meeting. It’s a simple and powerful technique. Let me know how it goes!