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Why it’s so important to be able to read a room

I recently spoke at an event run by @Robin Waite of Stroudfest where the room was full and the content was exceptional. I was the last speaker on (didn’t quite make the headline slot) and I wanted to leave everyone with inspiration and an exciting tool kit!

We had a great time and I met some great people…

Lately, I’ve noticed that success comes from being in the right rooms, so when we are not, we owe it to ourselves to make a change.

As a networker, I have learned to read the rooms I’m in and I’ve been able to make the right calls and helped both myself, my family and the business. I cannot overemphasise the fact that being in the right room produces positivity, the wrong rooms negativity and staying in any room will change you either for the better or for the worse. The right rooms inspire faith, the wrong rooms magnify fear. One thing is certain, time tells and builds a history of rights or wrongs.

The world we live in has got used to grey, rather than black and white. Real progressives are learning that happiness and positivity comes from surrounding yourself with the things that magnify it, not detract from it. Give yourself permission for your mission! Sticking around a situation which causes you to compromise who you are and what you stand for will affect you. Make a change and go long range! If you want to hit big targets, you need to be around big people, those that make positivity a priority.

Too often we stay in situations where the change we want to see fails to manifest. However, if we leave, the right changes will come because WE change, once away from the negativity. Allow yourself to leave an environment that magnifies negative traits and behaviours.

Success will surely come from connecting to people who are more successful than we are ourselves. It is uncomfortable at first, but when we stop playing the comparison game and focus instead on what we are building, insecurity is replaced by being invested. We become invested in learning (from those who are better and further on) exactly what is needed to take the vision forward rather than making everything into an egotistical competition.

So how do we know whether to remain or remove ourselves from the room in which we find ourselves?

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Feedback reveals maturity:

Do you feel comfortable enough to take feedback and be able to share it? Some people talk about walking on eggshells, but in some cases it is like walking on glass. ‘Die Hard’ fans will remember John McClane running barefoot across the floor in his quest to liberate the hostages held in Nakatomi Plaza. It is painful and you shouldn’t have to feel that way in any room.

Obviously, timing is key (there are times when constructive criticism is definitely not required!) A collaborative environment will encourage it because the value is in ‘we’ not ‘me’. Feedback can be painful, but stabbing people in the front is still better than in the back.

A diverse culture has the right perspective:

An abrasive and direct approach won’t work in a culture that is kind and collaborative.  And saying the same thing, only louder, doesn’t change things. Listening to understand before responding is one of the tools of the expert communicator. Likewise, never speaking up, (a rather British trait), and leaving rather than confronting can be equally disarming. Balance is key, but understanding diverse thinking enables one to spot a prophet about to launch a deadly., destructive attack, not just a rag tag man in a cave. True story, allow me to explain.

In Matthew Syed’s book – Rebel Ideas, he shares that the CIA were made up of middle aged white men from the USA who dismissed Osama Bin Laden as a someone to ignore, while in the Middle East he was championed as a hero. Quoting poetry wasn’t nonsense, rather an inspiration to a people that wanted to take the West on. The result: 911. A diverse culture avoids echo chambers and calls out what is wrong.

When you surround yourself with people just like you, eventually you’re left in an empty room hearing the voices that you want to hear but not those you need to hear, and the sound of an echo chamber can be deafening.

Ugly words also create worlds:

We mentioned stabbing people in the front, which doesn’t really sound like a good thing, but the All Blacks rugby team lives by it. Radical honesty can be used to build rather than tear down. Unfortunately, insecure people work behind the scenes to damage the reputation of someone who has the moral courage to call out the things that are just ‘not on’. If you work hard to blemish the messenger, you can cast doubt on the validity of their message.

When poisoned elephants are careering around a room unchecked, and nobody is allowed to speak out for fear of the consequences, the answer is to move on, don’t stay and fight, get out. Run fast, don’t look back and then show other people a way out. There’s no need to remain in environments where insecurity runs rife. Secure your escape and embrace the future.

Vision is optimistic:

Vision is too often murdered by negativity. Bad words create bad worlds. If you want unity around a vision, you need a clear, positive pathway. Negative behaviours create seeds of dissent and ultimately rob people. A sure way to stop creating a culture of negativity is by not giving yourself the permission to be negative.

Negativity defined is having an opinion on what is wrong without wanting to bring or implement solutions to turn things around. However, when you find yourself in an environment where the leadership doesn’t want to address what is wrong, and you’ve done all you can, then it’s time to reassess. If you can’t make any impact, then find somewhere where you are valued and can be valuable.

I’ve yet to find a toxic success story, it always ends badly. You are responsible for you and if the powers that be choose not to listen, they are ultimately responsible for their results, and that is a care you cannot carry.

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Know what good looks like:
Go with your gut. What smells off, normally is. I’m an optimistic person and I do all I can to see the best in every situation. It is in my DNA I guess, but it gets me into trouble. In the past I’ve done whatever it took and put up with more than I should have. Now, I zoom out regularly to do a ‘sense check’. When your situation is past its sell by date, the best thing is to see it and smell it way before you have to taste it. Study what a healthy room should look like and you’ll see an unhealthy one a mile off.

Healthy rooms allow for feedback, are diverse enough to have a broad perspective, avoid ugly words and are optimistic in the light of vision!

Learn to read the rooms you are in because the wrong rooms can waste your time, talent and treasure. So, rather than continuing with a course of action that will cause more harm than good, assess the room you are in and ask yourself two things: Can you become the best version of yourself in this room, and will it enable you to bring significant impact to others? If the answer isn’t a resounding yes, you are in the wrong room. If the answer is yes, you are in for a spectacular ride with people, purpose and a legacy to leave on this planet.

Three rooms I’d like to highly recommend for you to be a part of are…

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