Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fly on the Wall

Everyone always wants to be a fly on the wall to hear what exactly is said when they are not actually in the room. Obviously our mere presence can change the chemistry of the event and what happens...and then if you are like me and always have to say changes even more.

Today, I got my first chance ever to be a fly on the wall. My team (as I've mentioned before - they are a high maintenance bunch) meets almost weekly with a local group and a dial-in for off-site team members to discuss workload, tips/tricks, problem-solving, etc. I silently joined the conference call without announcing myself because I felt the need to better understand their team dynamics when I'm not in the room.

It was a most interesting exercise. I counted my name being mentioned 16 times. Luckily I never had to feel guilty about listening in because it was always in relation to someone consulting me for direction on an idea or a project. There were so many times, however, that the conversation seemed to be spinning out of control and I know if I was actually participating in the call and not sneaking around I would have jumped in and made a decision, stopped a non-productive conversation, or countered an opinion. Hearing how some of them reacted to one another was also interesting. I could see where there were evident personality conflicts as when one person was speaking, one other person consistently took an opposing view - and after a while it felt like purposeless arguing. Disinterest was also evident with the silence of some team members that became embarrassing moments when they were asked to respond to a question and were completely lost - or had put the call on hold/mute and had not mentioned they were dropping off for a moment. Another strange occurrence was noting that two team members who sit next to one another do not join the call together from a conference room, but choose to dial in separately. Very odd.

So now, my followup begins. I will use a skill taught to me by one of my very first bosses - she instructed me to "Play dumb blonde and call Joe pretending you don't know all about the stuff I've told you and see what you can find out." So I'm sending emails to different team members with suggestions, tweaks, project assignments etc. to see if I can mold some things secretly.

I won't do this often - it did feel like spying - but I may join the meetings more and stay silent to see how that goes over. They tend to defer to me when I'm on the call and I want them to think and act for themselves with minor corrections from me.

If only I could play fly on the wall more often in life - it would definitely be an enlightening experience.


so NOT cool said...

This was really interesting and although I can understand why it felt somewhat spy-like, I think that it is overall VERY productive.

And, yes, if we could occasionally be a fly on the wall in life, it could really change the way we live ... embracing some things (people?) more and other things (people?) less.

Thanks for sharing this interesting experience.

AmyBow said...

I know this was a case where you could be a fly on the wall so it was good to take advantage of it, but if I had a chance to be a fly on the well I wouldn't join in a group meeting:)