A qualities of leadership article in the March issue of Toastmaster magazine focuses on personal improvement in the context of behaviour at meetings.
The author suggests that “performance in meetings (appears) to be a proxy for career progression”, or at least “relevant to promotion”.
(Based on my own anecdotal experience, I would question this posit as a de facto progression; however, there is likely some tangential application when considered in a larger context.)
As he notes, oftentimes meetings serve as a ‘stage’, in that colleagues from other departments or levels of seniority may be attending. Obviously, one’s capacity to communicate effectively is there to be seen and heard. Making a positive impression should fortify a positive reputation.
Here are the author’s ‘five core behaviours’ which make one more effective in meetings:
- Key Messages: keep in mind that the time frame of meetings is limited (or, at least, should be); to some extent, the adage ‘less is more’ applies – rather than taxing allotted time with too much detail, focus on the key messages, which in turn should encourage reasonable questions, and thus opportunity to showcase greater knowledge
- Certainty and Confidence: a meeting chair or leader doesn’t value surprise or reasons for second-guessing a speaker’s contribution; participants should be direct and confident in their comments, since doubt leads to second-guessing; if asked a question which one cannot answer at the time, take notice and follow-up; doing one’s homework leads to certainty, which displays confidence
- Don’t Compete: avoid competing with colleagues for short term gain; by focusing on key points and appropriate debate, one’s professionalism and objectivity are projected, assisting one’s prospects to win ‘the long game’
- Timing: speaking too early on an issue may lead to a direction of discussion wherein one has to re-enter to clarify, hurting credibility; giving an opinion in a crowd of voices is ineffective; it’s best to speak toward the end of the dialogue, allowing for a fuller handle on the factors to consider, putting one in a better position to provide a more meaningful contribution; remember, though, if you don’t have anything meaningful to say on an issue, it’s best to say nothing
- Body Language: since ‘most human beings seek recognition and reassurance’, a good non-verbal strategy, when listening to someone deliver a message one is in accord with, is to establish eye contact and nod in agreement, keeping this up as the person talks; the speaker will likely return to you for reassurance, and others in attendance will likely pick up on your perceived influence; since overdoing this can appear unauthentic, exhibit this activity when it’s meant seriously
When attending a meeting, while the merit of content may be out of one’s control, the value of personal involvement and thus impression conveyed in the proceedings, is.