Nine Tips for Success at the Table – (So, Once You Get that Seat at the Table – What Will You Do with your Seat at the Table?)


Dan Weston, a Certified Emeritus Gazelles Coach
Dan Weston, Certified Gazelles Coach

A while back, I wrote a post that was one of those “a blinding flash of the obvious” posts. It was about one challenge facing women in business. They simply do not have their “share” of seats at the table: To Have a Seat at the Table, You have to Have Actual Seats – at the Actual Table (a reflection from Lean In).

Dan Weston, a Certified Gazelles Coach, in-demand Business Consultant, and regular participant at the First Friday Book Synopsis, read it, reflected, and then over lunch told me that “once you get a seat at the table, the next step is to know what to do with your seat at the table.”

Here’s the very good advice he offers.

When you are at the table, in the midst of a meeting at the table, you need to remember these nine tips for success at a meeting.

#1 — What is my role?
You do have a role in every meeting you attend. Figure it out before you go; and live up to the expectations of that role.
Really prepare — be fully prepared! — for the meeting when you walk in.

#2 — Be fully present.
Immerse yourself in the task of genuinely paying attention. (I just re-read portions of the terrific book Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova, which is a pretty detailed and helpful reminder that “we see, but we do not observe…,” as Sherlock said). Be fully present; listen & observe; let nothing distract you from being in the meeting when you are at the meeting.

#3 — Have a clear understanding of the meeting objective. 
In other words, always know “what is this meeting for?,” and help make sure that whatever that is actually gets done.

#4 — Think from a broader perspective than your immediate role.
Dan says that you should pretend that you are sitting well up in the stands, looking at the whole game, rather than looking at the plays from only your position on the field.
This is important for a lot of reasons. One, it teaches you to look at everything from as many perspectives as possible – as you should, because, everything matters! (And, remember, you will not always have the role you have right now. Understand other roles as fully as possible.).
And, there is always simply wisdom to be gained, and then shared, from a bigger, wider picture look and connection.

#5 — Take ownership for meeting success.
Every business endeavor, though dependent on the work of teams, also always has a person or two that really made the key difference. Without “this” person, success did not come. Be one of those people, and take personal ownership for the success of this meeting, and for what comes out of and after this meeting.

#6 — Change the drift – when the conversation needs to shift, make it shift.
Absolutely!   Your meeting will bog down. People will need a “jumpstart,” a mid-course correction, a tweak or more, to get the conversation rolling again, or to get the conversation on a different and better track, maybe a completely different direction.
Remember the wisdom of Thomas Kuhn , the father of “paradigm shift’ thinking. Paradigm shifts frequently come from outsiders, wrote Kuhn. Well, you may be an insider, but think like an outsider to help your folks shift, to get a little “outside” as a group. And then watch the energy flow in a whole new way. Make that happen in your group.

#7 – Contribute.
Well, duh. Assuming you have prepared for the meeting, you’ve done your homework, you’ve pondered and identified your role — then, open your mouth! Contribute your thoughts. Be an integral part of the work done in the meeting with frequent contributions to the conversation.

#8 — Schedule your follow action.
Any meeting that is “forgotten,” that does not have a clear “what do we do now” follow-through set of actions, is truly a waste of time. So, save time to carefully map out (schedule) your own follow-through responsibilities. Otherwise, you will lose your place at the table for future meetings.

#9 — Do it.
Then, after fully participating, get to work. Be so thorough, so effective, that at the next meeting your place at the table will come with a little more respect and appreciation from the others around the table

Let me remind you of another one of those “blinding flash of the obvious” observations. You build your career, and show your usefulness to your organization, one meeting, one presentation, at a time. Take full advantage of each such opportunity; never waste such an opportunity. And when you demonstrate your value, over and over again, over the long haul, your value and your reputation will grow.

Here are the nine again:

#1 — What is my role?
#2 — Be fully present.
#3 — Have a clear understanding of the meeting objective.
#4 — Think from a broader perspective than your immediate role.
#5 — Take ownership for meeting success.
#6 — Change the drift – when the conversation needs to shift, make it shift.
#7 – Contribute.
#8 — Schedule your follow action.
#9 — Do it.

This is valuable counsel. Thanks, Dan.

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