Stormy Teams (Or why you should always bring an umbrella to a meeting)

UmbrellasAt 8:15 one morning, my daughter asked me, “What is the weather like today?”

I pulled up my app, and it told me 56 degrees and rainy.

“When will it start raining?”

I pulled up the hour-by-hour, and it said it should start around 9am.

At 8:58am, as I was pulling out of my driveway, it started to rain.

When I was a kid, they would predict rain and it would never come.  Now, they can tell me exactly what time it will start.  Wow.

Meteorology has changed a lot since I was a kid.  Meteorologists have more data, and they have computers capable of amassing that data and identifying trends that accurately predict what will happen next.  Think about how many times a storm is coming, and the weather person is able to tell you about 8 different models and what they each mean.  20 years ago, it just wasn’t possible.

It strikes me that this is a perfect analogy for working with a team.  Each individual member of the team is like a current or a front with their own temperature and pressure characteristics (e.g., personality and emotional state). When you walk into a meeting, you can never tell which two fronts will combine to create a lovely, warm spring day, and which two will erupt into the storm of the century.  Unlike modern weather stations, we have no way of tracking and analyzing the key data points that will influence a team member’s state (such as a fight with their spouse, a sick child, or a hot coffee spill).  All we can do is “take an umbrella just in case”, meaning: come prepared so you can remain calm and let the drama roll right off you.

Personally, I like to take 5 minutes before a meeting, take some deep breaths, get a cup of tea, and prepare to exude calm.  I like to take my time entering the room (no rushing, which just gets my emotional state up), and I try to greet each person if I can (to build a connection and spread some of my calm). This ritual is my umbrella.

What does your umbrella look like?

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