on an end to hallway conversations

Have you ever been in a situation where the real conversations take place in the hallway, and not in the meeting room?  It’s a common problem. We jump to conclusions about motives, suspicions and inconsistencies, or we experience anger or disappointment with decisions.  But our failure is this– we lack the courage or humility to bring it into the meeting.

Patrick Lencioni, in his great book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, calls this “absence of trust.”  That is, I am unwilling to say my real opinion in the room, because it requires me to be vulnerable to the team.

Jesus calls us to something different.

Reading in Philippians 2 this morning, verses 14-15 caught my eye.

“Do everything without complaining or arguing…”


Yes, everything. Including meetings and organizational life.

Wuest describes complaining or grumbling as “discontented and secret mutterings” (against men, not God).  Arguing or disputing meant “discussions which carry an undertone of suspicion or doubt.”  Isn’t this what happens in the hallway? Murmuring about what was just decided, or casting suspicion or doubt on some course of action?

If we apply this to team life, then the team meeting is where the real conversation needs to take place, not in the hallway or any other place.  If we have concerns about a topic, we  address them in the meeting. Having the hallway conversation instead of the meeting conversation undermines team trust, unity and effectiveness.

Your point of view is essential to any team where you have membership.  You are there for a reason!  Don’t shrink back- don’t wimp out!  Bring your thoughts, opinions and questions into the meeting.

Showing up requires a heart that is at rest with God and with our team-mates.  Courage and humility is necessary to say what might be risky or unpopular.  But for people who follow Christ, this is the standard that is held out in this passage.

To what end?

“That you may become those who are deserving of no censure, free from fault or defect, guileless in their simplicity, children of God without blemish, in the midst of a perverse and distorted generation, among whom you appear as luminaries in the world.”

That we are His people needs to be visible in every place we serve.

Including hallways.

What helps you bring your opinions and point of view into team meetings?

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7 Responses to on an end to hallway conversations

  1. Barrett Brown says:

    Being invited to give feedback or respond to a topic helps. It’s not always clear that feedback or other input is welcome. Without space made to allow response, it can seem disruptive to disagree or express a different thought.

    • Thanks, Barrett. Being invited sure makes it easier, but if you see something, you have to consider yourself the steward of that thought or idea or feedback. Even that perception that it’s not clear whether input is welcome is something that you can clarify as a team member. The fact that it’s not clear to you may be new news to the person leading the meeting.

  2. Steve Morgan says:

    When I feel genuinely listened to, I feel valued and believed in and understood. That gives me confidence to speak up the next time…even if the decision is different than my opinion.

  3. I love what you’re saying and wholeheartedly agree.

    Besides those hallway conversations that you’ve described (those characterized by mistrust, etc.), I do think there are many beneficial reasons for them. They give Internal Processors (or us Slow Processors) a chance to try on an opinion. Or those of us who need someone to “talk out what they’re feeling/thinking”. Or those of us who make connections with a change in environment (as the ideas mull around in the back of our minds).

    I know you’d agree with these types of conversations. Sometimes I think we should orchestrate these moments more frequently (“everyone, take 4 minutes to engage over this issue however works best for you” (chat with an individual in the room, walk the stairs, step outside in the sunshine, sit silently, etc.).

    Many times it provides the courage, affirmation to that person to voice their opinion, idea, concern back in the meeting. Since we’re apparently prone to hallway conversations, perhaps the best way to end them is in right in the middle of them. I should display courage and take action in that hallway conversation: exhorting that person to speak up (if it’s beneficial), or take it to Jesus (if it isn’t).

    • Scott- hi. I can see your point about some conversations being useful. I like your action points of encouraging someone who is unsure to bring it up and stopping the conversation in the hallway and bringing it into the meeting. Good words, great application. Thanks for weighing in!

  4. Pingback: top 5 posts for 2013 | AB Reflections

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