If you want to lead a room, you must be able to read it.
That ability ― to analyze the mood of people in a room and act accordingly ― can be a powerful tool to build support and credibility among your colleagues, bosses, clients and more. And if you can’t, it can be a career limiter.
The good news is reading a room (either virtually or in-person) is a skill that can be learned, according to Keesha Boyd, an organizational psychologist and executive director of Multicultural Video & Entertainment at Comcast.
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“It’s about recognizing and taking in the surroundings so that you can maximize for the best possible outcomes for what you’re trying to achieve,” Boyd recently told Mika Brzezinski as part of Know Your Value's new “LEVELING UP" series.
Part of Boyd’s job includes coaching employees on reading the room, being confident and handling different points of view. Here are some of her best tips for mastering the art of reading the room:
1. Know who will be attending.
Reading the room begins before the meeting even starts, Boyd said. She recommended going over the invitee list so there are no surprises.
“Who is going to be in this room? Is this a big meeting? Are there going to be dissenting viewpoints? Is the decision-maker going to be in that room?” Boyd said. “A lot of this is mental prep.”
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It’s important not to jump right into a meeting, but to watch, listen and absorb, Boyd said. Taking that time to reflect can help employees calibrate their presence in the meeting.
“If the energy is high and positive, get in there,” Boyd said.
Observing and listening also allows meeting-goers to identify opportunities to speak up in an appropriate, productive way.
“You’re listening for that data to get a sense of where your viewpoint fits within this room,” Boyd said. “You add yourself into that conversation based on the data you’ve collected.”
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3. Make space for diversity.
Boyd recommended taking mental notes about the diversity in the room. This can include diversity of race, gender, corporate position and also expression.
“Your role at that point is to not make assumptions, but to be observant. You’ll see culture show up different ways,” said Boyd, whose job includes defining the multicultural content programming and engagement strategy specific to Black, Latino, Asian-American and international viewing audiences at Comcast.
By noting this diversity, employees can help ensure that they’re more open, aware and able to contribute effectively to the conversation.
“It’s important to make space for [the diversity] and observe it as it’s happening and pay more attention to the message [and not] necessarily to the messenger,” said Boyd.
For more with Boyd, join us in the coming weeks at Know Your Value. We’ll discuss body language, relationship building, mentoring and more as part of our new “LEVELING UP” series.