The Apprentice in the UK has come to an end for another year. While I don’t take the programme too seriously in relation to real business, I am fascinated to observe the dynamics between the candidates and between the candidates and Lord Sugar and his panel. Having heard how Susan felt undermined due to her age, and seen Tom’s strategy of politely raising his hand in an effort to be heard, I have been giving more thought to how to get heard in meetings.
- Are you ever in meetings where everyone is talking over you?
- Do you feel frustrated that you aren’t getting credit for your ideas and suggestions?
- Do you hang back like someone waiting to jump in at skipping?
Here are my quick tips for becoming a key contributor whose input is seen as invaluable:
- Listen – This probably isn’t what you want to hear (see what I did there? :-)) This doesn’t mean staying silent and passive. It means listening effectively so you can find ways to link your point to others. Rather than focussing on what you want to say, just make a few bullet points as notes and then turn your attention to listening to others. When you acknowledge and build on what others have contributed they are more likely to return the favour.
- Try holding up your hand – I know Tom from the Apprentice tried this with apparently little affect. This could have been because he did it in an eager school boy way. It doesn’t do to be reaching as high as possible, whilst still sitting on your seat and saying “me, me, me!” Okay a slight exaggeration. Try holding up your hand more like a stop signal and saying “I would like to say something”
- Interrupt – If the person doing the talking is long winded and moving off topic, everyone will be very grateful if you interrupt and say something like “can I stop you there and just summarise where we are up to?” Or “Can I make sure we are all clear about the point you’re making.”
- If they interrupt – and you aren’t the person being long winded and moving off topic, say firmly “Please let me finish.”
- Speak with clarity and confidence. – You will come across as having more gravitas and credibility if you slow down, think before you speak and ensure you don’t sound tentative. Others tend to dismiss people who appear to lack confidence.
- Ditch the language that undermines your message – If I had a pound for every time I hear someone, usually women, start their point with “This might sound silly but….” Or “This might be just me but…” Aargh! You might as well just say, don’t bother listening to what I’m about to tell you because even I don’t value it.
- Learn from experience – Think about the times when your communication has had the desired effect, when you have been listened to, when you have commanded attention and been acknowledged for your input. What did you do? What did you say? What was happening around you? What helped? Now just rinse and repeat! 🙂
Let me know how you get on and if there’s anything I can help you with.
I know of many teams where, as soon something needs discussing, or information needs sharing, the default position is to hold a meeting. Others are holding meetings because they are an established routine, even when many of the attendees are frustrated that the meetings are not adding any value or members are unclear about the purpose of the meetings. Is that you?
At their worst, to paraphrase Dave Barry,
“Meetings are an addictive, highly self-indulgent activity that corporations and other large organizations habitually engage in only to avoid making a decision or taking action”
Okay that isn’t the real quote but I want to keep it clean.
At their best, meetings are purposeful, powerful and productive forums for collaborative and decisive action.
A good reason to review your attendance
If you’ve ever sat in a pointless meeting trying to work out how much money was being wasted by having highly paid managers sitting (probably texting or dealing with emails) around a conference table, let me help you out. 8 Senior managers even on a modest annual salary of £80,000 attending a meeting that takes 3 hours including travel time, costs around £1,055 in salary costs alone, never mind all the work the managers are not doing whilst in the meeting. Does that help focus the mind?
That’s why you must ensure the meetings you do attend are the best possible use of your valuable time. Here are some questions to ask yourself before going along to the next meeting on autopilot:
- What is the purpose of the meeting?
- Why am I attending this meeting?
- What outcome am I looking for from this meeting?
- What can I contribute to the meeting?
- How will it help me achieve the key purposes of my role?
- How much time will the meeting take? Has a time limit been set?
- How else can I achieve my aim? Is there a more effective way?
- What work am I not doing, whilst attending? Can I justify that?
- Is there someone more appropriate to attend the meeting?
- Am I needed for the whole meeting?
- What’s the agenda? How can I make sure I get the agenda in good time?
- What will I do after the meeting to ensure the time was well spent?
How many meetings will you attend this week? How many hours will you spend in them or travelling to and from those meetings and how will you measure if it was valuable use of your precious time? I look forward to your comments.