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Reading the room

Have you ever wondered why you and your team get along so well when you communicate in a group? Or, perhaps why you don’t for that matter?

The reasons why certain sequences of behaviour take place in groups and why particular boundaries and rules might affect conversations are complex issues and having a good understanding of group dynamics is essential when it comes to successfully leading your team.  

In his book, ‘Reading the Room’, David Kantor applies his theory of structural dynamics to help leaders and coaches understand and improve communication within their teams. A systems psychologist, and one of the great innovators in organisational leadership, Kantor provides his theory and model for people to learn the hidden patterns of conversation and action.

We’re often given advice about the importance of being ‘self aware’ and of trying to see yourself how others see you. And that’s good advice, however not always so easy to put into action. Kantor asks the question: ‘What if leaders, coaches, consultants, managers, and family members had the ultimate encyclopedia on speech—a resource that broke conversations down into a soup of visible intentions and judgments, and also outputted the proper words for one to say in order to be heard, to make others feel heard, to break a standstill, to create an environment of collaboration, to create a sense of purpose?’

Unfortunately, there isn’t too much room here in this short blog to go into great detail; however understanding Kantor’s model – which I use regularly in my work – will provide you with great insight and perspective. The ability to understand what’s going on as people communicate in groups, including recognising when the discussion is moving forward, or indeed about to derail, and knowing how to guide it back on track – is an essential leadership skill to master.

To sum it up, we might say it’s about social awareness. So when you walk into a situation, especially in business, it’s about taking an emotional temperature check. In fact, think of it as just that, like placing a thermometer in the room – take a moment to assess what’s happening for those present. How are people? Check in on them.

When this environment exists, we have more of a chance of being successful in our communication because others are ‘on standby’ to receive us, and they will also recognise that we’ve taken time to receive them. 

Are you consciously reading rooms when you enter them? How well does your team interact and listen to each other? Please share your thoughts in the box below.

Posted on Thu, September 17, 2015 in General Leadership Personal Development
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