Issue: Awkward moments in meetings are uncomfortable, for everyone. So, awkward moments are shut down, which does not promote excellence.
Sally doesn’t know the answer to a seemingly simple question. Bob can’t articulate the strategy for a project that began a month ago. Rather than staying in the moment and exploring the issues that have been raised in a neutral tone, too often, a leader may move on and hope that the issues are magically resolved going forward.
Rather Than Moving On
Anticipate and embrace the silence. Don’t retreat. Instead, lean in because you are about to hear something amazing – something that unravels the mystery of what happened, how it can be fixed, and how it can be prevented in the future.
As leaders, these awkward moments should catch our attention as they can highlight the support needed as well as shed light on the capacity of a company, project, team, or individual to achieve success. Staying in the moment and embracing the awkward silence may provide the insight and accountability needed to produce excellence.
How To Embrace The Awkward Moments
Allow the respondent time to formulate his response and know that it may come in spurts. Again, don’t retreat but tease out the answer with bite sized questions that allow for bite sized, and often more palatable, answers. Best to get responses and perspectives from multiple people who are sitting in the same room, if possible. Separate team meetings to formulate responses can be political, lack authenticity, and slow down the process of unraveling the mystery that the question seeks to solve.
If you still aren’t totally satisfied with the response (which includes “I don’t know”), write the question down to circle back to it later in the meeting, in a private conversation or email. If the question/issue was important enough to ask, then the answer is important enough to seek out.
Don’t take the dynamics personally. It’s not about you. It is not about your comfort level or the comfort level of the respondent(s) or bystanders. Rather, it is about the information that the question and the answer provide. If you need a mantra to repeat to get through the moment try – “Awkward Moments Are Amazing.”
Specific Take Away
Anticipate and embrace awkward moments. Tease out the answer and, if necessary, circle back around to hear the answer. If it is important enough to ask, it is important enough to answer. Add to the list of awkward questions so they don’t surprise you when you hear them. Repeat after me “Awkward Moments Are Amazing.”