During a trip to South Africa, I had the pleasure to meet a woman who is a senior executive in a large German company.
We shared experiences, both professional and personal, and it was so much fun to make a connection with a new person. One topic led to another, and soon we were talking about how you get people to rally around a new idea.
"I always want light, not heat," she said as she described what a perfect discussion should look like. "Often, we're in meetings when the tone gets very heated. But does this move the topic forward?"
She continued, "I want to add light to the topic. Let's make whatever we're talking about clear to everyone, and then we're having the right discussion."
I thought about what she said and was struck by the truth of it.
"Heat" in a meeting usually means raised voices and people backing away, like you would from a hot stove. Add "light" and you have a completely different dynamic: everyone can see the topic more clearly and create a common understanding. Everything at work is easier when folks are starting from the same point.
I will apply this new insight to meetings I attend in the future. If the atmosphere starts to get tense, I will try to extinguish the heat and add light -- who knows, it might keep all of us from getting burned.