meeting oddities

Was at a public meeting last night and was intrigued by the way some of it played out.  There was some much mental gymnastics to avoid the “elephant in the room” and a great deal of defensiveness by those in authority that I came away wondering why it was necessary to have the meeting.

On at least 6 occasions the assembled throng was told that it was ok to ask questions, questions were welcomed and expected.  However, asking a question demonstrated that this was not necessarily true!  I asked a question regarding finance – expenditure had been drawn back in all areas due to the credit crunch, except in one area that had seen an 80% increase.  The question was answered well from the platform and good reasons given but was immediately followed by a senior leader sitting alongside me (strong arming me?? – that would be a cynical thought!) and contradicting the answer from the front.  Most peculiar.

Another person asked a very simple question, purely out of interest – “how are the …….. going?” – the response was very defensive and after a long diatribe the comment came – “I only wanted to know how it was going!”

It was not a bad meeting and was well natured but it left me thinking about how our words and subsequent actions can give such totally different messages.  My personal desire is that my words and actions would have a consistency to them, mixed messages can be unhelpful and create doubt where doubt need not exist.  I have learned a few lessons on how meetings may be conducted – also the necessity of dealing with the blasted elephant, just hope it does not turn vicious!