When we spend time in meetings or conversations with others, we tend to focus on the content of our discussion – what we want to talk about, the answers we hope to get, the decisions we want made.
An equally valuable element to focus on to ensure meaningful conversations and to create more positive and powerful experiences in our lives is the process of our conversations. The process covers how we want to show up, the way we want to behave and how we hope to inspire others to behave.
The difference between process and content goals is essentially the following:
- Process: the experience, roles, and behaviour you want for/from yourself and others
- Content: the topics you want to discuss, the answers you hope to get, the decisions you want to get made
For this week’s practice, I’m inviting you to think about setting process goals for your conversations or meetings, to pay attention to how you show up rather than just the topic you want to talk about.
When you think about your process goals for a conversation, the idea is to focus on how you want to behave and what behaviour you would ideally like from the other person(s). Of course you can’t control how others behave, but your own behaviour can provoke very different reactions. For example, if a boss tends to always provide answers and give direction in a meeting, it is unlikely that her direct reports will do much other than listen. But if she asks questions rather than giving answers, she’s likely to get a very different response from the same people.
This applies outside of work too. When you interact with your spouse or your friends, is there a pattern to who does what?
Becoming aware of the way you typically engage gives you the freedom to choose something different, perhaps creating a new kind of interaction with more fulfilling results.
Thinking about the way you’d ideally like to feel when you are in conversation with others, consider the following questions:
- How do you want to behave in the conversation? Do you want to give direction, ask questions, encourage ideas, provide answers? Spend some time thinking about what you would ideally like to do, and not do.
- How do you want others to feel in the conversation? Inspired, encouraged, challenged, taught?
- Thinking about how you want them to feel, what will they do to show you they feel that way? How will you know (will they ask questions, offer ideas, etc.)?
- What is your biggest potential obstacle to behaving the way you want? For example, if you want to ask more questions than provide answers, are they used to that? Will they respond positively or might they be confused? Or if you want them to offer ideas, have they done that in the past or will this be new for them? Identify what might be a challenge or a new behaviour for you or for them (or both).
- What are you going to do differently to get around that obstacle? For example, I have a tendency to jump in and run meetings, taking over the white board and documenting things. In the past when I have wanted to avoid doing that, I literally sat on my hands and didn’t allow myself to stand up or go to the white board because I knew I’d take over. Is there something you can think of that you could do that would be similar, that might help you stick to your new behaviour?
Try setting a process goal for your next work meeting, or a conversation with your partner or friend. See what happens when you show up differently. Does it give you a different result? I’d love to hear your comments below or on our Facebook page.