Mastering meetings can provide career boost

As a general rule, it takes time to win respect and credibility in your organization. But if you want to get noticed fast and build your reputation, one of the best ways is to master meetings. That's where your boss and peers see you in action and where they draw conclusions about how good you are.

Remember how your teachers used to grade you on class participation? The same is true here. Fair or not, you are being judged at every meeting you attend. So, don't try to hide.

Here's how the rising stars use meetings to boost their careers:

1.      When you walk in the room, pick a spot where you can make eye contact with as many people as possible...especially the person running the meeting. You will be able to watch the body language of everyone in the room, which will help you read beyond the words and see what's really going on.

2.      Speak up! Never let a meeting go by without offering your opinion or making a suggestion, but be careful not to hog all the air time. When you do talk, be clear and straightforward. If you disagree, say so. Dancing around the issue only confuses people. And using self-effacing disclaimers (such as "This may not be a good idea...") diminishes your point.

3.      If you really want to stand out, speak up when you're in a large group. The bigger the group, the less likely it is that other people will have the courage to raise their hand. However, take care not to sound critical or negative in a large audience; better to bring up a sensitive subject with the speaker one-on-one.

4.      Early in the meeting, help the group state the purpose of the meeting and what you hope to accomplish during the allotted time. This simple task will do more to keep your meetings productive than any other single thing.

5.      Ask for clarification. If you're wondering about something, chances are other people are too. Too often, a meeting ends and the action items are fuzzy or someone's point wasn't well understood, yet the people in the room never spoke up and asked the questions they were wondering about.

6.      Pay attention to the process. Every meeting has two separate levels of activity: the subject and the process. When a meeting is poorly run, it's usually because the leader doesn't know much about managing the process.

If you want to improve the meetings you attend, facilitate the process by helping the group stay on track, summarizing where the group is in the process and making sure participation is balanced and respectful.

7.      Volunteer to follow up on at least one action item that comes out of the meeting. You will stand out as a person who isn't afraid of doing more than is expected. I notice that people who often take on action items in meetings are also the ones who usually get promoted.

8.      Draw out other participants and respect their ideas. If you are ignoring or interrupting others you'll hurt the team's effectiveness and damage your own contribution.

9.      Paraphrase often. It will help everyone understand what is being said and clear up misunderstandings and conflicts.

10. Ask at the end of each meeting, "What did you think of the meeting today?" By doing a quick evaluation each time, you will notice a drastic improvement in the quality of future meetings. You will also prevent the "meeting after the meeting" in the hall.

Meetings are becoming more important as companies are becoming more participative. Rather than looking at them as a time waster, why not make the most of them? It's where business gets done and careers get made.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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