Leadership Move #2: Get in ‘Front’ of Meetings

Image Source: PixabayThey say the worst place to accomplish something is at a meeting because, by then, all the real decisions have already been made behind closed doors. This is especially true if you are somewhat reserved when it comes to pushing your way into a discussion (like many are) during meetings.

So what does it take to be part of those pre-meeting discussions? It takes you ‘getting in front of’ your meetings. That is, it takes you having certain conversations with key players – in advance of the ‘formal’ meeting on a particular topic. Then, when the formal meeting actually does occur, the probability of things going ‘your way’ dramatically increases.

Here’s how to do it:

Step One: Get a clear understanding of what you need to know.

  1. Who do you need to have a pre-meeting with? Specifically, who?
  2. What do you need your pre-meeting be about? Specifically, what?
  3. Why is a pre-meeting, with you, a good use of THEIR time? Specifically, why?

To ready yourself, create a clear and compelling ‘elevator pitch’ for all of the above. As in literally, because, as things happen, you’re likely to find yourself sharing an elevator ride with one or more of your specifically who’s and you’re going to want to be ready.

Step Two: Actually have the conversation beforehand.

Elevator door opens. You walk in. Who’s there? Precisely!

Or maybe it takes a phone call. (Emails and live chats are not encouraged – remember, you’re not just trying to inform, here, you’re trying to influence.)

Then enjoy the fruits of your labor – or learn what didn’t quite work, as intended, and be smarter and more prepared for the next time.

What if you’re not be able to attend a particularly important meeting?

On vacation? Overbooked? Not invited? No worries.

Simply proceed with your pre-meeting, per above, with the following adjustment: Notify whoever is chairing the meeting that while you cannot attend, you would like to ‘weigh in’ with your input.

Then ask what’s likely to be on the agenda, what decisions will likely be made, and when you can call back to share your views once you’ve thought about things. Once shared, specifically ask the chairperson if s/he would be so kind as to share your perspectives with the group, at large, during the meeting. S/he will likely be happy to because: (a) S/he now knows what your views actually are; (b) since you’ve prepared, as you have, your views are likely meaningful; and (c) it’s not an unreasonable request you just made.

Want to increase your impact even more? Get further in front of the meeting by also calling the other attendees and sharing the same perspectives you shared with the chairperson.

Having an impact even when you’re not in the room. That’s a pretty good Leadership Move, wouldn’t you agree?!

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Geeking-Out As A Coach

ICFadvance2016Great people, plenty of thought-provoking content, deep personal growth – a total ‘geek-fest’!

Last week I attended the “Science of Coaching” conference hosted by the International Coach Federation – the membership organization that manages coach credentialing and has designated me a Master Certified Coach (MCC) for the last 9 years (and the next 3, as well). For me, the coach, this was he epitome of personal AND professional development. Loved it!

Sure there were things about the conference that could’ve been better. That is, more relevant for particularly me. But as I’m sure you already know, the value derived from a conference largely depends on your intentions. Want to hate it? It’ll be there for you. Want to love it? Same. The choice, as we say, IS a choice!

So I chose to embrace its potential. (How very coach-like of me, right?!) And I profoundly benefited.

Great People

The conference sold-out quickly, and coaches from all over the world – from 17 different countries, I think someone said – attended the event in Tempe, Arizona. (Kudos to The Marriott at The Buttes – a truly stunning venue.)  I got to meet, and speak with, colleagues from the North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. All so different, yet strikingly similar. I even got to meet my own coach for the very first time! (We’ve been working, by phone, for the last 3½ years, but had never actually met, in person, before.)

Plenty of Thought-Provoking Content

There were three main content areas of the conference:

  1. coaching presence
  2. creating awareness
  3. team coaching

Ironically, I haven’t yet sat down to review my notes, yet – I pretty much filled an entire spiral notebook. Nor have I reviewed the dozens of photos I snapped to capture the more salient PowerPoint slides I saw. But that will all happen soon enough. Suffice it to say, though, that since I’ve been back, every single coaching conversation I’ve had so far has been somehow enriched or informed by a reference to what I learned while in Tempe. And I suspect that will continue for the foreseeable future.

Attending the conference also afforded me the opportunity to earn more than 35% of the continuing education credits I need for my next MCC renewal (in 2019), which was an added bonus and makes perfect sense!

Deep Personal Growth

Yes. Deep. Personal. Growth. Curious? Just ask. I’m happy to share and discuss in a more private forum. (Hey, the Internet doesn’t need to know EVERYTHING, alright?!)

What About YOU?!

Have you you attended a professional development seminar yet this year? What relevance did have to your personal development, as well? Not much, you say? The value derived from a conference largely DOES depends on your intentions, now, doesn’t it?!

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Workplace Civility and the Lack Thereof

file0001257808786Today’s word is “civility.”And today’s question is, “How civil are you, Friend?”

What is Civility?

“Civility is claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process.”

So say Tomas Spath and Cassandra Dahnke, Founders of the Institute for Civility in Government. “Civility is about more than just politeness, although politeness is a necessary first step,” they say. “It is about disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue about differences, listening past one’s preconceptions, and teaching others to do the same. Civility is the hard work of staying present even with those with whom we have deep-rooted and fierce disagreements. But it is political, too, in the sense that it is about negotiating interpersonal power such that everyone’s voice is heard, and nobody’s is ignored.”

  • disagreeing without disrespect
  • seeking common ground
  • listening past one’s preconceptions
  • staying present
  • everyone’s voice is heard, and nobody is ignored

To quote Oliver Twist, “Please, sir, may I have some more?”

Civility and Conflict Management

The ability to manage conflict is as important as it is in the because of a decided lack of civility in the workplace. Conflict management skills are what help mop up the mess caused by incivility.

Katrina Plourde, Human Resources Manager at the Westerville Public Library, articulated the distinction between civility and incivility as such:


Which brings us back to the question of the day: “How civil are YOU, Friend?”

Incivility is on the Rise

According to Rex W. Huppke (Chicago Tribune, 8/14/2016, section 2, page 3), “Recent studies show that the number of people experiencing incivility at work has doubled over the past two decades, an odd trend when you consider the increased focus many companies have placed on dealing with harassment and workplace bullying.” He goes on to discuss a recent paper by associate professor Russell Johnson at Michigan State University:

“Incivility, does not involve openly hostile behavior, threats, or sabotage. As such, incivility is more benign and does not warrant the same legal attention or formal sanctions as other forms of mistreatment. Yet, it is a relatively frequent low-intensity negative behavior that has a substantial impact on employees.”

• relatively frequent
• negative behavior
• has a substantial impact

Johnson’s view is that incivility both causes, and is caused by, mental fatigue, which makes us all more susceptible to becoming a ‘victim’ of incivility, and all-too-often transforms us from ‘victims’ of of incivility to ‘perpetrators’ of incivility. Furthermore, “because incivility reflects a mild form of mistreatment that is likely to go unpunished…and can easily denied and therefore excused, it occurs more frequently than other forms of mistreatment.”

• incivility both causes, and is caused by, mental fatigue
• we are all-too-often transformed from ‘victims’ of incivility into ‘perpetrators’ of it
• incivility often goes unpunished
• it occurs more frequently than other forms of mistreatment

In other words, Pogo fans, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

What to do about incivility?

Huppke suggests that since mental fatigue plays such a large role in the spread of incivility, it’s important to keep mentally fresh (and refreshed) by getting enough sleep and taking occasional breaks to clear your head and recharge. He also says that we could make a point of reminding ourselves (and others) – with a sign on your cubicle wall or a small strip of paper taped to your computer screen to “Be Civil.”

• keep mentally fresh
• get enough sleep
• take occasional breaks
• “Be Civil.”

Which brings us back, once more, to the question of the day: “How civil ARE you, Friend?”

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Hello, My Name Is…


How comfortable are you at introducing yourself to those outside your immediate sphere of influence? Many, if not most, are not. If that’s you, Money magazine offers five excellent ways to take the complexity – and awkwardness – out of it. “The key?” asks author Caroline Ceniza-Levine of 5 No-Fail Ways to Introduce Yourself at a Networking Event, “To be brief, but also leave enough information that you pique the listener’s interest.”

Here’s how:

  1. Bond Over a Shared Experience
    “If you’re at a wedding, open with how you know the couple. If you’re at a conference, open with your affiliation to the organizer or your interest in the topic. If it’s a company mixer, mention your role, department or years at the company. From this shared experience, you can share parts of your background that build from there. But you have already built rapport by starting with what you have in common. This is great for a career changer who may not want to associate himself with the role or company he currently has.”
  2. Tell a Client Story
    “Instead of just listing your title and company, talk about who you serve: ‘I’m an accountant with We Love Taxes. I prepare taxes for retail companies, mom and pop businesses, circus performers….’ The more specific the better. You can also drill down to one specific story: ‘I am currently working with a retail store owner who came to us with a laundry bag full of receipts, invoices and other papers, and I created an electronic system that can now be accessed on her phone.’ The client story is particularly useful if you’re a business owner and want to leave your listener with a clear idea of your value but without a sales pitch.”
  3. Give a Before and After
    “That anecdote of going from a laundry bag full of papers to a streamlined system is not just a client story, but also a before/after story. The before/after can be a client’s result but it can also be what you have brought to your role or department: ‘I manage logistics for We Love Mail. The company used to spend over $1 million on shipping costs, and my group figured out how to cut that cost in half.’ A before/after structure is accessible because it’s visual, and the conversational structure prevents too much business jargon from creeping in. Creating a before/after pitch also forces you to identify and specify the value you bring.”
  4. Focus on your Expertise
    “This is the most traditional pitch in that you summarize the arc of your career—industry specialty, years’ experience, and/or role: ‘I’ve been in marketing most of my career—consumer products, luxury, and now retail—specializing in social media…’ This is a dependable way of introducing yourself, and if you keep it concise, you’ll share a rich amount of information. One drawback is that many people use this pitch, so you risk getting forgotten, especially at a crowded event like a conference where introductions stack up. To be more memorable, that same marketer could have made the pitch more specific… ‘I am the social media strategist for We Love Books. I build a community for book lovers to discover our store online.’ Or the marketer could have tried to incorporate the before/after as well: ‘I am the social media strategist for We Love Books. We had a pretty dormant Facebook page three years ago when I started so I put us on YouTube, Pinterest, and Facebook and now we a third of our customers hear about us first online.'”
  5. Get Personal
    “Most pitches rightly include professional history or accomplishments because people expect this. But an introduction is really about the start of a relationship. The professional sharing could come after. You might try sharing something personal first—where you grew up, a cherished hobby, a side project you’re currently working on. If the personal nuggets engenders a genuine rapport and a chance to talk again later then it’s a good pitch to use. You might combine it with the shared experience: ‘I’m a friend of the bride. We went to school together—elementary actually. I grew up in St. Louis and didn’t come to NYC till well after college…'”

So go, experiment. Mix and match. Watch and listen how what you say engages others – does their affect remain pretty flat or do they perk up and engage back? Based on that, vary your ‘what’ and ‘how’ the next time. And the time after that, etc.

Remember, an introduction is really about the start of a relationship – not about trying to complete an entire entire relationship in 30-some-odd-seconds.

What Next?

If this post helped you learn something about yourself, then great! Be sure to share your insight with others as a way of 'locking in' your learning. While you're at it, I'd also appreciate you telling them about the other self-study resources available from LeadershipTraction including:Thanks.

- bz

P.S. If you have a question or comment about this post, just let me know. I'll do my best to get back to you, straightaway.

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