Food for thought
Boredom: Burden or Benefit?
by Nicole Scherf
Ever felt bored in a meeting?
Just before I left for my christmas vacation in France, I had a last coaching session with a senior HR Leader from a global company. While she was talking about her key role and challenges, I started feeling increasingly bored. This feeling of boredom turned into shame for ‘unprofessional disconnect‘ within milli-seconds. In many – if not most cases, human beings instinctively react to this ‘unpleasant emotional state related to insufficient stimulation‘ by blaming others (fight) or – like me – by mental withdrawal (flight). Here is a suggestion from a coach’s toolbox which can help anyone to transform a boring meeting into a mutual experiential learning opportunity and create better outcomes for themselves and the other meeting participants.
Ask the following 5 questions:
- Why do I feel bored right now / What triggered this feeling?
- What is my connection with the sender right now? Do I feel connected? If not, why?
- What is my connect with the topic?
- What is the overall energy right now in the room? Then ask the other participant(s):
- Who else in the room feels that the energy-level is low? What’s happening right now?
It may feel rather provocative or even risky to do that, but other meeting participants are likely to be happy about leaving the ‘dance floor‘ to go on the ‘balcony‘ with you.
The benefit? A collective excursion to the meta-level can help to shed light on potential blind spots hindering a real discussion in which people connect and engage.
The costs? Nothing – you will even save time by having more efficient meetings.
How did the coaching session end?
In this very last coaching session before my holiday, I directly addressed the issue of me feeling bored and asked my coachee how she felt when talking about his challenges at work. This question immediately changed the energy in the room. She realized that she was in a phase in which she felt little emotional connect with what was meant to be her core role: creating the right context in which her HR team can perform at ist best.
We found out that her current role and work environment were not the cause of boredom and disconnect. Unconscious needs and feelings had been ‘parked‘ for many years, that’s all. What she was missing in her current life was the feeling of compassion, engagement and belonging. Back in time, when she had been a student, it was all there. This was the time, when she worked part-time in a small family-owned company where she felt fully integrated in an ambitious, collaborative team. In her current life, this lack of compassion has been compensated by financial and career perspective for a number of years. Meanwhile, compensation was obviously not enough anymore and she reckoned that some sort of self-actualization could help her to re-engage and become more passionate again. She just recently decided to go for an Executive Master’s Degree.
Not every boring meeting has the potential to end up in a collective exploration and learning journey. Changing the course of a boring meeting by redesigning the agenda can instantly generate more value for everyone and positively impact the outcome. Just start wondering yourself in the next boring meeting: Why do I feel bored right now? It is definitely worth a try… why not?
Nicole Scherf is an Executive Coach and Partner of Leadership Choices. In her previous career as a Headhunter and Company Shareholder, she had been sitting in too many ‘boring‘ meetings herself without having used self-reflection as a tool for more constructive usage of the ‘emotional data‘.