According to a Microsoft survey, the average worker spends 5.6 hours a week in meetings. For many of us, 5.6 hours in meetings is probably a light day! And all of the time that we are in any meeting, we are being evaluated by our peers.
Being in a meeting is not unlike being on a job interview, except in this case you are being evaluated for your next big project or promotion. Everyone in the meeting can feel the dynamics, observe the politics, see the body language and sense those who are trying too hard to be heard. However, it is those who know how to be strategic who will earn respect and get noticed in a meeting. This is because they are the ones mindful of “breaking the ice,” “knowing the audience,” “creating the curiosity,” “facilitating the conversation,” “controlling the tone of the interaction,” and “taking copious notes.”
The next time you are in a meeting, carefully “look around” the obvious details of the people and the social dynamics that exist in the room. Look around the job titles and designated seating positions to spot the real leader. Perhaps an executive is heading up the meeting but a subordinate wields the most influence when discussions begin. Observe who owns the respect of the room. Who is trying too hard? Who is posing? Who is apathetic?
Take good mental notes because the social dynamics of the room will tell you much about whom you ought to align yourself with and whom you should not. Whether or not you are in a position of leadership, your ability to earn respect and get noticed is inextricably linked to your collaborations and interactions with other people. You must therefore know who will help and who will hinder your propensity to succeed. There are four primary characters you must always identify in the meeting: the leaders, the lifters, the loafers and the leeches. How you engage with these four types of people will influence how effective you are in the meeting.
Know your audience and their agendas. Anticipate their behaviours, decisions and attitudes. Have a plan of action that will allow you to seamlessly navigate these dynamics in a way that will showcase your leadership patience, polish and poise – your executive presence. Preparing for these dynamics on the front end will serve as the foundation to increase the probability of your success on the back-end of a meeting.
Now that you have the proper mindset in place, here are five ways to earn respect and get noticed in a meeting:
- Take Copious Notes
Most people will bring a pen and paper (or their iPad or laptop) to a meeting, but very few use these tools to take copious notes. They hear what is being said, but aren’t actively listening or taking notes on what it actually means.
When you are in a meeting, write down the key points that each participant makes. Connect the dots between each person’s point of view. Use your notes to determine key takeaways from the meeting that can impact the outcomes and/or highlight significant opportunities. Identify important talking points as well as inappropriate dialogues and hidden agendas. This becomes your meeting playbook.
Your strategic note-taking will begin to be observed by others. It will create intrigue and curiosity, giving you power over those who are not taking notes. Those who never noticed you before and with whom you may never have had contact will begin to ask you questions and request that you share your notes with them. Perhaps a follow-up meeting or even a lunch will ensue.
Copious note-taking during a meeting gets other people to think that perhaps you are hearing something that they are not. People around you begin to think that you have an edge and have captured a particular insight. I remember taking notes in a meeting after it was adjourned. One person asked, “What are you writing about, the meeting is over.” I told this person that I was identifying behaviour tendencies amongst those in the meeting and wanted to remember them to better prepare me for the next meeting. She looked at me and said, “What a great idea, you are holding people accountable for their actions, identifying their strengths and also their weaknesses along the way.” This person eventually became the Regional VP of our company and later promoted me into management.
- Respect Key Contributors
Many times those who contribute in the most significant ways in a meeting are not recognized or respected enough because they don’t have an important title, tenure or influence. Because you have identified the various personalities in the room and your copious note-taking has given you the insight to acknowledge each one’s contributions – you can begin to respect the key contributors.
This act of leadership earns you respect from those whom you are acknowledging – and from the other colleagues in the room. Be mindful that it may also create jealousy and envy amongst the “loud leeches” that are starving for attention.
People often wonder why they lose great talent. Most of the time it’s because they are key contributors who are not respected.
- Enable Unseen Talent
Too many times the loafers and leeches get in the way of a productive meeting. They either don’t act or don’t add any real value. When you detect that the meeting is going nowhere, enable the talent of others in the room who have yet to be heard. Don’t allow the loafers and leeches to neutralize the real talent in the room. Create balance by enabling others.
Create an environment that allows everyone in the room to have a voice, with the understanding that everyone is accountable to contribute in ways that accomplish the goals of the meeting. For example, ask “John” to provide his point of view on the matter because his entrepreneurial spirit can provide a resourceful perspective. Or engage “Wendy” to add value to a particular issue because she is strategic and has an innate ability to anticipate the unexpected.
You don’t have to be the person in charge of the meeting or a leader in the room to enable unseen talent. You simply need to be an active listener with a broadened observation of the dynamics that are taking place in the meeting. Trust yourself enough to speak up, and be responsible enough to help not only yourself but others too.
- Express the Importance of Teamwork
Too many times, people want all of the glory in a meeting. They are recognition addicts. Instead, be the lifter in the room. Express the importance of collaboration.
Neutralize those who want to be the stars and hold them accountable to play a more inclusive role. Take the “meeting playbook” (you have assembled through your copious note-taking) and recommend what you believe is the optimal team to execute and accomplish the mandatory goals of the meeting.
Take the initiative to express the importance of teamwork. Perhaps your “optimal team” recommendation is not accepted, but that’s ok. Your goal is to establish the right tone and to guide the teamwork conversation. In the end, your efforts will be respected and noticed.
- Be Accountable
How many times have you been in a meeting and someone says to you, “That’s a great idea you should do something with it.” What usually happens? Nothing! Create the action plan. Be a leader. Manage the process. Hold yourself accountable. Only you know when you believe your “hands-on attention” will create impact and make the biggest difference. You may not always act upon it (but your gut tells you that you should).
Don’t let your passionate pursuit go to waste. Unleash it and take the initiative to act upon an idea that you believe in – whether it was presented in the meeting by you or someone else. Take action and show others that you can be responsible enough to hold yourself accountable and to complete the task all the way through to fruition.
Pre-meeting preparations, the careful observations of others and how well you listen and interpret meeting dynamics; taking strategic, copious notes and then translating them into a tangible and actionable playbook that you can act upon for the betterment of others – these are the things that will elevate your relevancy, earn you respect and get you noticed.