Business and Beatboxing. At face value, they don’t share any obvious similarities, yet according to Ally Yates, author of ‘Utter Confidence: How what you say and do influences your effectiveness in business’ there’s commonality to be exploited.
Beatboxing uses the body like a versatile musical instrument, imitating a variety of sounds through the mouth, throat, tongue, lips and voice. Any musical genre can be covered and while there’s a basic pattern to the art of beatboxing, the resulting vocal percussion is diverse. What’s more, every element can be heard.
The multi-vocalism of this contemporary musical form has parallels with skilled performers in business. Research in the field of Behaviour Analysis, the study of what you say, has shown that the most effective operators draw upon a range of verbal ‘behaviours’, depending on the context. Like Beatboxing, there are basic behaviours that are useful in almost all business interactions, overlaid by other verbal behaviours for specific settings, such as meetings, sales, presentations and negotiations.
Lucas, a sourcing manager based in Singapore, says of Behaviour Analysis: “Learning about behaviour has helped me to improve the way I contribute in meetings – limiting my own unhelpful contributions while developing better facilitation skills through the use of Summarising and Bringing In.”
Summarising is an accurate precis of all or part of the preceding discussions. You can help the entire meeting by summarising key points at regular intervals. In studies on skilful behaviours across a range of work situations, summarising regularly shows up as a helpful, yet still relatively uncommon, behaviour. One of the reasons it’s rare is because to summarise accurately you have to be a good listener and be attending to the contributions of others rather than focussing on your own agenda.
Bringing In is the active seeking of a contribution from someone who has been out of the discussion for a while. A smart chairperson will notice who is ‘in’ or ‘out’ of the discussion and will manage the involvement of all meeting members. If you’re managing a meeting, like the conductor of the beatboxing orchestra, you need to invite the different sections to participate. Bringing In is one way you can help the airtime to be more evenly distributed across the group and, like the beatboxer, ensure that each of the diverse contributions is heard. The other way is to use Shutting Out, a behaviour that stops another’s contribution, most typically by interrupting someone. It’s a useful, percussive device for quelling the more garrulous people who can dominate the airtime if left unchecked.
If you’re not the chairperson, sometimes you will have to shut out another person just to be heard. If you’re reluctant to speak out in meetings your attempts at using this behaviour will likely be ineffective. A basic and helpful formula for interrupting and claiming the airtime is A + B + C = SO. A is A non-verbal indication that you want to get into the discussion. You can lean forward, indicate with your hand, nod with your head and/or make eye contact with the speaker or the chairperson in a way that communicates ‘I have something to say’. B is a Behaviour label. Use a label to prepare the audience that you want their attention. C is the Category of behaviour you use next, e.g. asking a question, suggesting an idea. These three elements combined significantly increase your chances of ‘SO’ – Shutting Out successfully.
“Learning about Behaviour Analysis has given me a powerful framework to improve my effectiveness in meetings and other interactions,” says Lucas. “I’ve found the behavioural insights useful regardless of the meeting’s scope, the organisational hierarchy and the individual’s culture.”
Jace, a finance business partner, based in Singapore said of Behaviour Analysis: “Understanding more about my behaviour has reminded me to remain flexible and apply different styles in different situations. It has also helped me to improve my influencing style.” Jace is playing the percussion with the various behaviours, extending her flexibility and her skill. As with learning any new skill, it takes practice. She’s got with the beat. Will you?