Today I met with Rob to discuss findings from the interviews and my draft report, but that’s not exactly what we accomplished. Instead he walked in, sat down, and said I just need to talk through some things. We ended up talking about all sorts of components of the organization, some related to my project and others more tangential. I provided a few insights here and there, and definitely kept his processing, venting, and thinking moving forward with a couple hopefully well-timed questions. People sometimes scoff at those organizations that provide their CEOs with an external leadership consultant, but after this lunch date, I get it. People in positions of power need safe, neutral, but not totally indifferent spaces to just talk things through, and, to use Sam Kaner’s term, have a thinking buddy. I’m definitely not a Catholic, but being in this role of hearing someone out, gives me an appreciation of the confessional. If kings of old had priests, maybe today’s leaders have consultants. Whether or not that analogy holds up, I’m glad I was able to provide the space that he needed that day for talking things through, even if we didn’t get to our original agenda.
Post-script: In searching for an image to accompany this post I found out that the original use of the term “sounding board” was not the bridge of a guitar or other string instrument as I thought, but actually the hanging structure above a church’s pulpit that was designed to project the speaker’s voice out to the congregation. Perhaps my religious comparisons were not so far afield.