Thursday, July 17, 2008

Nuance, Tone and Expectations

Today seems to be one of those days where communications on all fronts go awry - and in this respect I am not just talking (or writing even) about myself.

The first meeting attended this morning benefited from a surprise visit by the boss and the associated playing up (my perception) of one of my colleagues at the expense of another (actual impact). This was not missed by others in the meeting who, it would seem, drew the same conclusion. The tone of the meeting was unhappily set by that initial interaction.

The second meeting suffered from the intention of the Chair to complete discussion within a set time period. The 'floor' had an expectation of open discussion; this was not on the agenda (!) and discussion moved with ungainly haste from point to point without the necessary depth and understanding and with too much activity being targetted to individuals outside the meeting.

The third meeting was cancelled at short notice and whilst this was of some importance and highly relevant to Meeting 2 outcomes it was, nonetheless a relief.

Meeting 4 was surprising and provided unexpected support for a potentially exciting development which had previously seemed unattainable. There is a real feel of the project being taken seriously and being afforded development space, a change of tone being experienced as the depth of the project was explained.

Meeting 5 was surprising but negatively so. The tone remained up beat in the face of some severe difficulties and action was agreed to try to provide a positive resolution.

So why write about all these meetings? Each meeting was facilitated by a different colleague, each having a different set of associated expectations, some of which were met, others not (with variable emotional response). Each meeting had its own tone, this impacting on the behaviours of those in the meeting and therefore to the eventual outcome.

It made me think of a seminar by Janice Picard at the Networked Learning Conference 2006. Her paper was looking at behaviours within on-line communities, considering 'relational dynamics' and 'how these features influence group dynamics'. I think we do not necessarily spend enough time as professionals considering how our own behavours might impact on the reactions of others. A lesson to be remembered methinks.


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