Every Meeting Is a Job Interview: How to Show Up with Your “A” Game
Updated: Feb 3, 2019
The best opportunities to elevate our leadership brand occur when we are in front of others.
Show up in every single moment like you're meant to be there
- Marie Forleo
An executive I coached last year, Hal, wanted to know how to position himself to get promoted to the next level. After examining all the data from interviews and assessments, the answer came down to one thing -- be more engaged during meetings. Hal’s colleagues thought he was smart, had a great work ethic, and made great decisions. His personal brand suffered however, because he often “disappeared at the table” by remaining silent during lengthy discussions or answering email on his smartphone.
We worked together to develop a plan for Hal to add more value during meetings. What he once dreaded as a boring interruption to his productive day became a big opportunity to create a more persuasive and attractive personal brand.
Consider every meeting a job interview. Regardless of all the great work you may do in your office, the real you in action is what people see in a meeting. A meeting is really a stage, a place to demonstrate how you critically think, how you handle conflict, and how you build consensus.
Following are eight ways to bring your “A” game to meetings and improve your personal brand:
1. Understand your purpose for being there. Find out what the leader and others value in your presence. Are you a content expert? Do have access to information or key people? Have you had experience with the topic? Are you a vested member of the team? Decide what value you bring to the table and then bring it with confidence.
If meetings are not valuable to you, then start bringing more value to your meetings.
2. Ask for an agenda beforehand. Be brilliant by knowing ahead of time what will be discussed. Even a small amount of preparation or research can set you apart as committed and focused. Finding an opening to say “In preparing for this meeting, I did some research…” creates a strong impression of engagement and leadership.
3. Show up 5 minutes early. Nothing says disorganized like showing up after a meeting starts. A bonus is that you can connect and network with others who show up early. You will be able to consistently show up early if you begin limiting the meetings you schedule to 45 minutes (vs. one hour). Almost every hour-long meeting can be accomplished in 15 minutes less, and the quarter hour saved will give you ample time to show up prepared to your next meeting.
4. Leave your electronic device behind (at least in the off position buried in your purse or pocket). If you really want to set yourself apart as being an engaged and focused leader, then you can’t be distracted. A recent study found that 64 percent of employees report they become disengaged during a meeting when they answer email, answer a cell phone, update their social status, or send an instant message. Don’t be part of the 64 percent.
You can’t do big things if you’re distracted by small things - Anonymous
5. Help clarify the desired meeting outcome. Most leaders who schedule a meeting don’t come with a clear, desired outcome. The leader might vaguely say, “We are meeting to discuss the ABC project”. This is your golden opportunity to show leadership. At the beginning, ask the following: “So we can use our time wisely, may I ask what outcome we are looking for in this meeting?” It may be a decision, alignment, accountability, new ideas, planning, or a work task meeting. By helping the group articulate the desired outcome, you demonstrate leadership.
6. Make your voice heard. Too many people wait until they have the perfect thing to say or have all the facts before they speak up. The most important thing is to let others hear your voice. Whether it’s a question, restatement, or quick observation, you need to be heard to make your presence count. A good strategy is to make your voice heard once every 10 minutes.
Leadership is the readiness to stand out in a crowd
- John C. Maxwell
7. Help others be heard. Clarify and restate what you hear others say. Doing so affirms their comments as valid and gives you license to disagree without creating defensiveness. Restating others’ viewpoints also casts you in the light of assumed leadership.
8. Ask for a “Call to Action”. Every meeting needs to end with a clear go-forward plan for next steps. Without it, you’ve just spent an hour having a nice conversation. By asking “What is our next call to action?”, you help the work move forward while reinforcing your leadership brand as engaged and results-focused.
My client Hal made significant changes in the way he participated during meetings. His colleagues noticed. His boss noticed. The meetings he attended improved. Hal became an active influencer “at the table” vs. a passive email and phone checker. Hal is now being considered for several new positions of greater responsibility.
Your next job interview is a close as your next meeting. Are you showing up with your “A” game?