About 10 years ago I was conducting a leadership seminar for a group of about 30 participants which seemed to be going very well. The group was engaged, responsive and energetic which as a facilitator makes the process so much easier.
There was one person though that didn’t seem to be engaged at all. She kept checking her smart phone, drifting off, and looking completely uninterested in what was going on. Since I’m of the belief that there are no bad audiences, yet there are plenty of bad facilitators, I usually take this as a personal challenge to engage every participant in the group. -Game on!
I used every technique I’ve ever learned in over 20 years of presenting to groups large and small. I asked over-head questions, direct questions, all types of questions. None of them worked with this individual. I had them break up into small group discussions, then one on one discussions, and still no engagement. I told stories, and used analogies to hammer home my message, I even had the entire audience get up and do a quick review process and still no movement from this particular person.
By this time I was completely stumped- what was wrong with her? Why couldn’t I get this person engaged? This was some of my best stuff and nothing I did seemed to grab her interest of attention. Finally, during the mid-session break I wandered over to her and bluntly asked if everything was ok or if I could do something different to help her get involved in the program. I’ll never forget her response and it’s a lesson that has served me well over the years.
“I’m so sorry, this session is absolutely wonderful- I found out about 5 minutes before the session that my daughter and grandson were in a car accident this morning- they are both ok, my daughter needs stiches in her forehead and my grandson may have a broken arm so I’ve been getting updates from my husband whose with them in the ER- the problem is I get terrible cell service here and having a hard time getting information from him so I’m completely worried and stressed this morning.”
Upon receiving this information, I immediately told her that nothing we were speaking about that morning was as important as her going to the hospital to be with her family. She broke out in tears, hugged and thanked me and went directly to be where she belonged that morning.
I, on the other hand felt like a complete idiot. Had I really become that obtuse and self-absorbed to believe everything I presented to groups around the country was the most important thing happening in their lives at that moment? Clearly that morning for some strange reason, I forgot that people have lives outside of the conference room. People have real stress and anxiety related to the real-world problems that even with the best of intentions will cause them to be somewhere else.
As a presenter and facilitator my goal is to engage the audience to a level where they can process and absorb the material with the intention to take action once they leave a session.
Nowhere in this process can it be about “me”- I’m simply not that important to the over-all mission of a session like this. I’m not the “Sage on the Stage- but rather the Guide on the Side”
Ego and personal assumptions about how the session goes that day is probably the most irrelevant part of the equation. What’s most important is that the audience walks away feeling as though their time was well spent and they found something of value that they can actually use in their business or in their lives. This is something I’ve always known, yet without reminders can easily be forgotten.
I still do everything that I can to connect and engage with an audience. I still make if my mission to provide valuable tools and “Quarter Turns” that can be used the minute participants get back “out the door and on the floor.” I still use all the techniques at my disposal to create an amazing experience for those in attendance.
Yet I also know that there are people in the audience that may not be interested, may have other things happening in their lives that are simply more important than anything I’m sharing with them. Or maybe they are just having a bad day. You know what? That’s ok, that’s none of my business and I’m not that important that I need to worry about it or take it personally. I can only control what I have control over and continue to operate according to my Brand, my Values and the absolute best of my ability. I’ve learned at least for myself- that is enough.
Ego I’ve learned, when dealing with people, isn’t your amigo.
Ask yourself this week:
Where am I making situations all about me?
What behaviors show up when my ego is involved?
How am I going to address these situations moving forward?
Thoughts for the week:
We come nearest to great when we are great in humility- Rabindranath Tagore
If your ego speaks to me than my attitude replies to you. – Unknown
A bad day for your ego is a great day for your soul. – Jillian Michaels
The Ego’s job is to kill everything but itself- Byron Katie
The ultimate aim of the ego is not to see something, but to be something. –Muhammad Iqbal
Apologizing doesn’t mean you are wrong and the other person is right, it just means you value the relationship more than your ego. -Unknown
Looking forward to our next connection.