Who will you be today?

A while back I was early for a meeting with a large bank in the city of London.

My meeting was for 2.00pm and so I waited at a coffee bar opposite the bank and enjoyed the rare sunshine.

As I was people- watching I spotted a group of young executives walking down the street towards the bank. They had been out, presumably to get some lunch and were in great form: very relaxed, with jackets over shoulders, ties undone and they were laughing and joking together.

As they approached the bank they tightened their ties and put on their jackets: that was not surprising, but what I did notice was the other, more subtle changes as they approached the swing doors…

Their body language changed- they moved slightly apart, straightened up and altogether became more serious. Quite unconsciously they were slipping into ‘work mode’. They were putting on their masks before entering the bank.

What struck me then was how instinctive this was, how without thinking they had adjusted their internal sense of being as they approached the doors of their workplace.

We all do this instinctively and we all know that we can go into work mode and become a different person to when we are in home mode. So if we instinctively change personality as we go to work, it follows that if we give this a bit more thought we can choose variations of this personality to suit specific occasions.

I am sure, if we are honest, that we can all remember times when, before a meeting, we have failed to read the minutes of a previous meeting, or to study the relevant papers and we will recognise how much of a disadvantage this put as at during the meeting. We all know that if we come into a meeting fully briefed we are going to perform better.

But getting briefed is just part of the preparation: we also need to decide ‘who’ we are going to ‘be’ during the encounter.

When we are in ‘working mode’ we will naturally adapt our style to the type of role we feel most comfortable in and there are many different work roles: friend-boss-disciplinarian-salesman-conciliator-organiser to name but a few. We need to understand that our instinctive role will not be best suited to every situation we encounter.

So, if you are a natural conciliator (and many of us are), and you are about to deal with a confrontational issue, not only do you need to prepare yourself for the encounter by reading all the background material, you also need to prepare yourself internally by considering which mask to put on, by choosing ‘who’ you are going to ‘be’ for this particular meeting.

Taking account of the ‘who’ will not only better prepare you for the meeting, it will ensure that the chances of a successful outcome are increased.

1 reply
  1. Roger
    Roger says:

    That story reminds me of a client whom I was coaching who asked for an urgent meeting over a coffee to discuss a situation that he was due to deal with the next day. He was the director and one of his managers and one of her staff were at loggerheads and the member of staff had demanded that he, the director, intervene in the long-running disagreement. The manager believed that was also needed as she considered the situation a disciplinary one. The director had agreed to meet both parties the following day.
    Our discussion centred around “who do you want to be in this meeting?” The obvious option was: “the boss”. We discussed how that might play out and then considered other. options: “a friend”, “a conciliator”, “an arbitrator”. We discussed how each of these “identities” might work. He eventually settled on a combination including “the boss” – starting by laying down what the company expected of both of them in their roles and how the disruption would not be tolerated any longer. Then he “changed hats” to be “an enabler” – clarifying from each of them their concerns and extent of understanding the other’s perspective and the company’s. Then, and this was key, he left them to it – expressing confidence that they would resolve the issue between them and that they would report back on the agreed solution.
    He called me the following day, in some amazement that this approach had worked and both employees had come to see him together to explain how they were committed to working effectively together.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *