I used my Swiss army knife twice today. I bought it over 20 years ago and I love it. It’s so versatile. I was never a Scout though, but my father and daughters were. The Scout’s motto ‘Be Prepared’ refers to being ready to cope with anything that comes your way. So, what about meetings?
The way we ‘show up’ in a meeting can affect how others perceive us. When unconscious gender bias is operating how we are perceived is affected by our gender. Our gender-socialised behaviour can also further undermine how we wish to come across or how our actual level of competence is understood.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to consciously and effectively build your leadership presence in meetings and be the boss you want to be. First and foremost, it pays to be prepared.
Here is a simple checklist of the things you need.
MAP: Get clear on the overall purpose of the meeting
Why does this particular group convene? What is the high-level purpose or objective? Review the Terms of Reference. If you don’t know find out.
MISSION: Get clear on why you have been invited
If it feels like you sometimes spend most of your day in meetings, then it’s worth making sure it really is the best use of your time. Ask the chair or convener why they have invited you and what they want you to contribute. If they’re not clear and you can’t see any value then politely decline (a topic for another day). Alternatively, you might get agreement to attend only part of the meeting.
COMPASS: Read over the agenda beforehand
If an agenda hasn’t been circulated, ask for it. If there isn’t one, ask for one. If the meeting is a huddle or regular, quick standing meeting then the structure should be predictable i.e. you already know the agenda.
ROUTE: Pre-read the attachments
If you want to have the mental bandwidth to be attending to the discussion in the room then do yourself a favour and don’t try to be reading at the same time. Your attention can only really be on one thing. If you are reading you will miss out on conversation. If you are listening or talking then you won’t be properly thinking about what you are reading. You might miss something important.
SWISS ARMY KNIFE (of course): Prepare your thoughts and comments ahead of time
Following all of these steps will then afford you the time to formulate your thoughts. With time to prepare you’ll have a greater chance of your words having the desired impact. You are more likely to be clear, concise, and project confidence in your opinion. Or you will have had the time to think outside of the box, come up with and suggest innovative solutions. Perhaps you will have had the time to do some research and add information that hadn’t been picked up on or considered already. You get the picture.
SENSIBLE SHOES: Let go of perfectionism
If you’re not adding value consider why are you going or ask yourself how you can add value. And yes, be prepared and formulate your thoughts. Otherwise you are wasting your valuable time. However, the pendulum can swing too far in the other direction and you can end up wasting time by over-preparing or overworking your piece. Watch out for and work on this if you recognise this trap.
We are up against it in meetings with ‘bropropriation’, interruptions and ‘mansplaining’ to name but a few, but with your map, mission, compass, route, Swiss army knife and tramping boots you are in a position to shine like the boss you are.
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12 Strategies to Increase Your Leadership Presence in Meetings