Often just a little shift in the internal environment can determine the success or failure of a project, meeting or initiative. Let me share a personal story to illustrate the importance of internal environment.
Recently I was invited to speak for two hours at an exclusive private meeting made up of about 15 small business owners. When I walked into the room where the owners had been for almost the entire day, I noticed the room set up and immediately felt that something was off.
It just didn’t “feel” right. I had the sense of being disconnected and detached. I knew I needed to create trust and intimacy for the type of problem-sharing and creating that I was about to facilitate. I knew that as an outsider and having only two hours, I must figure out a way to work with the environment.
The Inner Invisible
Your feelings, intuition, thoughts, and perceptions make up the inner invisible environment. When you are uncomfortable, it’s not a question of right or wrong, just a little information that something is off. Most of the time we ignore these signals and try to go with the flow.
How often do we just “work with what we have” instead of thinking of ways to make the environment better? We remain uncomfortable in a meeting rather than adjust the thermostat, or change the seating or lighting. This internal dissonance with the leader eventually creates discomfort for the participants even though they may not know why.
Instead of ignoring the inner dissonance, I took a pause and said, “I know this is going to sound crazy, but this doesn’t feel right. I need a different set up.”
The Inner Visible
One of the owners said, “what if we removed a set of tables to form a U shape instead of the square shape, and you could stand in the middle with the flip chart?
“Perfect!” I said, as they started working together to transform the room. For me, as the facilitator the entire energy shifted.
Pay attention to your comfort level when you are facilitating a meeting, hosting a gathering, or designing a work space. Notice whether or not you feel connected or disconnected. Notice your comfort level. What is the flow? Are there barriers to communication? What atmosphere do you want to create? Relaxed, focused, intense, or spacious? There will be a “feel” to the space if you learn how to connect with the invisible. This very connection will help you work effectively with the visible elements such as tables, chairs, lighting, and surrounding space.
As a leader your job is to work with the environment to influence the outcome, and very often it starts with the internal invisible environment.
Marlene Chism is an executive educator, consultant, and author of Stop Workplace Drama, (Wiley 2011) and No-Drama Leadership (Bibliomotion 2015). She works with executives, and high-performing leaders who want to transform culture in the workplace. To explore opportunities please email firstname.lastname@example.org