One of the things that happen to any Public Speaker or trainer is that as they go to different places to speak, they will get a chance to hit the nail on the head regarding issues affecting the people they are talking to or the people who invited them to speak. If you’re training a company for example, you may get a chance to hit the nail on the head regarding some management issues or some difficulties that the staff are going through in that company.
This ‘hitting the nail on the head’ may mean that you touched on something sensitive that the staff have been complaining about for a long time without any visible change from the management. It could also be that it is something the management has been talking about for a long time and the staff have refused to make any serious adjustment. As you touch on these issues, the party negatively affected will be sober and the party that has been raising the issue will be happy and most likely cheer you on.
If you realize that you’re speaking or training in an organization and the staff members are cheering you on regarding a subject matter that affects managing an organization, you need to be wise and shake the table gently. If the matter affects the trainees and not the management, you may get away with that without any consequences though that should still be done with wisdom.
I went to speak, upon a recommendation, at the Lagos State Polytechnic to the staff of the higher institution. I was given a topic that wanted me to address the attitude of staff and their work ethics among others. In the big to balance the perspectives, I touched on a few issues that affected management without any intention to ‘break the management table.’ By the way, if you’re reading this and you’re not a Nigerian, you may not understand the context of ‘shaking, shattering or breaking a table.’ Let me quickly explain that. When you touch on some issues and you hit hard at those affected by those issues, you’re said to be shaking a table with some people on that table. If you start talking about politics and the negligence of politicians in a room full of politicians, you’re shaking a table. If you drive the point really hard, it would be said that you shattered the table. Where the battering is so tough that everyone is speechless, then you’re said to have broken the table because there is no table left.
Having cleared what it means to shake, shatter or break a table, you will now understand what I mean when I say I began to shake some tables with management staff on it. As I touched on those issues that affected management, the staff began to cheer me on. It was then I knew I was going to get into trouble if I didn’t slow down or find a way to change the subject and continue with my presentation.
I simply balanced the discussion by touching on the things that affected the staff as well and then, the room went quiet. I didn’t even know the impact of what I had done until after my presentation when a staff walked up to me just outside the hall. This staff wanted to talk more about those issues I raised with the management staff being on the table. As he was about to start raising issues and seeking perspectives on the best way to relate with the management, the senior staff who had been relating with me on behalf of the management shut him down and told him about how unprofessional he had been by following me around to even attempt such discussions.
Something was obviously wrong somewhere. Staff had their grievances and management had theirs. The facilitator came to talk to both of them and if care is not taken, you get in the middle of the mess. And as we say in Nigeria, they both use your head to break a coconut. That simply means having to warring parties put you in the middle of their fights and you end up taking the blame or being hit for their actions.
If you’re a trainer or Public Speaker, it is okay to shake tables where it is necessary but do not do it in such a manner that it appears you’re clearly battering someone or a party because you’re being cheered or that you’ve been given information. Just discuss the subject that you’ve been asked to discuss and don’t let either party derail you.
You clearly don’t need to be told, and I am doing that now just in case you haven’t been told and you don’t know, that shaking tables without a strategic application of wisdom will be that’s the last time you’re ever going to speak or train at that organization. Shake tables but do so with wisdom.