Meetings… Probably the most inefficient part of your day. You’ve heard the saying: “If you want to kill time, a meeting is the perfect weapon!” No matter what you do, most of the time it comes to this: “too many people speaking, not enough listening.” I believe that the number 1 reason is ego: everyone wants to show what they know and offer a piece of their mind to the group. Sometimes it’s important and productive. But most of the time, it is not.
After years of sitting through long and ineffective meetings, I found the secret to make them efficient. And I found it in the most unexpected of places.
While practicing Aikido, you are not supposed to talk much. There are even some classes where you’re absolutely not allowed to speak at all. We call it "be here and now". Not talking has 2 major advantages: first, for the person you practice with, it helps them to focus on the technique without anyone judging or making notes. Even if it comes from good intentions, it can be more hurtful than helpful. Second, for yourself, it is more important to flow with the technique and understand how if affects you than tell the person you practice with “you are doing it all wrong.”
The best way to learn is to shut up!
So, last year I made a test with myself and didn’t talk for a few meetings, not even a word. As a manager, it looked a bit strange at the beginning for my employees – they thought that I wasn’t listening to what they had to say. But, when I sent them my notes on the meeting afterwards, they realized that I was not only listening attentively, it had pushed them to be more involved. They felt like someone had to talk so they started to have more confidence and take the stage. In addition, as a manager, I understood that once you say what you think, most of the time your employees will not go fully against your ideas, even if they think you are wrong. If I let them speak, they voice their opinions without me affecting them.
But, the one who gained the most was me. I sat at the meeting and fully listened to everything and everyone. For the first time I felt like I was fully internalizing what was discussed. Hearing and listening to what others had to say, looking at my team to see who is passionate and who doesn’t seem to care, who raises their voice to make an impression and who is quick but smart.
For me, it was an amazing experience and, since then, I have been trying not to talk when I don’t have to and really listen to what is being said in the meeting, including voices, gestures or energies.
“I want considerate people to listen to the voice of Aikido. It is not for correcting others; it is for correcting your own mind. This is Aikido. This is the mission of Aikido and should be your mission.”