What I Learned from the Black Box
I was working for a company just outside of Boston. I was living just outside of Laguna Beach. The job was a great fit. At 13.5 hours door-to-door when the weather gods were on my side, the commute was not.
I was part of a team hell-bent on turning around a company in crisis. They had lost 10% for three years before I got there. About six months earlier, the staff had been cut from 200 people to 40. The culture was hurt. Everyone had ideas about what went wrong, but no one was sure about what to do right. The process models had fallen apart.
ItÃ¢â¬â¢s so easy to talk about negatives in a situation like that.
Because of my circumstances, I attended two executive meetings each month via telephone — a black box on the table. IÃ¢â¬â¢d say hello to the group. TheyÃ¢â¬â¢d place the food of the day near the phone, and the meeting would start. They would forget I was there. I got to be the proverbial fly on the wall.
Three important things happened over that telephone.
- Attending the meetings via telephone raised my concentration level. It was almost like eavesdropping. I was less inclined to speak. It required crossing a barrier. I had to feel strongly to add my opinion. Instead, I listened more intently, just to imagine what was happening.
- When I did speak, IÃ¢â¬â¢m told, all eyes went to the forgotten box on the tableÃ¢â¬âmy voice got the complete attention of the room. I wasn’t freely spouting information. So when I spoke, they listened.
- Like me at the other end, they had to Ã¢â¬ÅworkÃ¢â¬Â to hear the message. They had to rely on interpretting data through only one of their senses and so, it was information they had earned.
It was the absence of the visual that made our words so powerful. We actually heard each other better and valued each other’s words more.
The difference was that we had to listen.
The common wisdom is that we lose more when we lose the visual. In this case we gained. Learning to listen wasn’t the only lesson that I learned that day.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
If you think Liz can help with your PRM, check out the Perfect Virtual Manager on the Work with Liz!! page in the sidebar.