Back in 1996, I was conducting an important three-day “train the trainer” session for a program we were launching at Accenture. I was personally training 200 top client partners and managers. It was critical that we got everyone’s buy-in.
At the end of day one, the partner in charge of program, Bob, asked me how I thought it was going.
I responded, “Overall, I think it is going well. But I’m concerned about Dave. His body language tells me he is not on board. Or maybe he is just bored.”
Dave was one of the most senior people in the the room, so his support was critical.
Bob replied,”Funny, Dave was the first person to come up to me. He said it was one of the best courses he has ever attended.”
I learned something important that day (a lesson I continue to relearn nearly every day): everyone reacts differently.
Some people are reserved. They like to process things. But that does not mean they don’t love what you are doing. They just may not show it.
On the other hand, there are people who are highly animated. They are always at a 10 out of 10 energy level. With these individuals, don’t assume that this high energy means they like what you are doing.
There are those who say nice things to your face, but may say something completely different (and less positive) to others. They don’t like confrontation, so they may not always speak what is on their mind. Or they may not want to hurt your feelings.
There are the people who appear to be downright argumentative. But this doesn’t mean that they aren’t on board. Their style is to poke holes in things to make sure that they are considering all angles.
And of course there are many other variations.
When giving a presentation, making a business proposal, leading a team, or attending a meeting, remember that everyone will respond differently. Just because someone’s reaction is different than your natural style does not mean that there is a problem. Conversely, just because someone appears agreeable to your face does not mean that they are supportive.
Their long-term actions will be the ultimate test of their support.