It’s tricky for all of us. I’m teaching the only leadership course these accounting students will take as part of their masters programs. The class runs from 5-10 PM after most have worked all day in their internships, and we’re crammed into a room too small for the big moving around that is critical under such conditions.
All but a handful are on visas from China. This is their final semester, and most who are not finding a job, face a fast-ticking clock that matters.
A good number name public speaking as their greatest fear, and of course it’s a leadership class, and it’s me, and it’s five hours…everybody needs to talk.
Now, this is a Karin Hurt classic. It never fails. Until tonight, or so I thought.
The Power of a Change of Venue
It was time to present the credos–the student’s “This I believe” on leadership. Each student sat straight up in their seats. I could see glimpses, so I was optimistic of effort, but nearly everyone had their credo turned face down on the desk. I invited volunteers to share their credo. I was met with crickets. Then two brave souls came forth with rock star quality presentations— followed by (you guessed it)–more crickets. The class looked at me with big, longing eyes waiting for me to move on. I offered a prize for the creativity folks most admired–not helpful.
Perhaps it was the tenacity to not let this fail, or the panic I felt realizing that this exercise should fill an hour and “We can’t be done in two minutes!”–but, I regrouped.
“I can see you’ve got great stuff by the glimpses I caught as you entered the room. I also see most of you don’t feel comfortable sharing in a crowd.
Let’s go into the hallway.” 45 students formed two circles and I quickly arranged a “speed dating” kind of sharing.
The energy level went up about 10 times, and I quickly realized my previously shy students had something important to say.
One minute in, it was clear, we were disturbing the surrounding classes.
I interrupted. “That’s the spirit! But, now ironically, we’re too loud.” Would anyone object to going outside? (It was sunny but a bit chilly.)
And off we went. You would have thought I had started serving cocktails. Bystanders were staring as they walked by to see what we were up to.
They shared and admired and celebrated their leadership teachable point of views.
As we returned inside, I shared my “teachable moment.”
“My leadership was failing. I tried to get you to follow and you refused. I had to take a step back and regroup and change the approach (and in this case the venue). If no one’s following, blaming it on your followers may feel good, but it won’t work. If you’re really blowing it, step back and try again.”
And then the magic happened. The class selected one of their quietest members as their “winner” for creativity and content. And then, classmates who had never participated started sharing their credos. The rest of the evening went a whole lot quicker. Ahhh the remarkable power of #confidenthumility.