Don't Be a Meeting Wallflower
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Kathryn Heath, Jill Flynn, and Mary Davis Holt, partners at a consulting firm focused on women’s leadership development and authors of Break Your Own Rules offer evidence that female executives, “report feeling alone, unsupported, outside their comfort zones, and unable to advocate forcefully for their perspectives in many high-level meetings.” This is particularly troubling in light of research offered by social psychologist and Stanford professor Deborah Gruenfeld that the more one speaks in a group the more status one is perceived to have.
Of course, not all women feel disenfranchised in meetings and many men can feel that way too. We contend it’s easier for anyone to speak up when they have a game plan for doing so. That’s why we suggest P.R.E.S.:
· Begin your statement with your main POINT.
· Substantiate the point with a REASON.
· Offer an EXAMPLE.
· Now SUMMARIZE.
Keep our P.R.E.S. model in mind as a way to contribute articulately and persuasively at meetings.
We want to hear: Do you ever feel reluctant to speak up in meetings, and if so, why? How does our PRES model work for you? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
No Shrinking Violets
We recently wrote about Harvard professor Amy Cuddy’s research on “power poses” and how striking an expansive pose before a high stakes interview or presentation can boost confidence. (Stand with your limbs stretched out from your body, hold your head high, and it’s hard to feel insecure!) Now we’d like to take this concept a step further.
In a recent talk on body/mind alignment and its importance in conveying our messages, Stanford professor and social psychologist Deborah Gruenfeld cited research showing that in group settings (like meetings), those with high status assume more expansive body postures than those with lower status.
On a subliminal level, people decide in microseconds who is—and isn’t—worth paying attention to. If you want your words to resonate, align them with your body posture. A few subtle changes can make all the difference. Moving your elbows away from your body or draping an arm across a chair can increase your perceived status, while contracting your limbs, bowing you head, or turning one foot inward can lower it. When verbal and non-verbal messages align, our impact is greater.
Share your experience: Have you equated higher status with expansive body postures when you observe work colleagues? What happens when you try altering your own non-verbal body posture? Join the conversation and click "comments" below.
The Chemistry of Conversation
Negative conversations nag at us—for chemical reasons. The cortisol (stress hormone) they produce can stay in our system for over 26 hours, keep us on edge, and color the way we react to further communication. Positive conversations produce the feel-good hormone oxytocin, but this metabolizes much faster than cortisol, so the effect doesn’t linger as long.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, consultant Judith E. Glaser, author of Conversational Intelligence and biochemist Richard D. Glaser (we have no relation to either) cited their survey research asking managers how often they engaged in positive conversational behavior (e.g. showing concern for others, and painting a picture of mutual success) versus negative (e.g. mistrusting others’ intentions and just pretending to listen).Those surveyed contended that they engaged in more of the positive, though 85% admitted to “sometimes” engaging in the negative.
As the authors point out, “when leaders exhibit both types of behaviors it creates dissonance or uncertainty in followers’ brains, spurring cortisol production and reducing C-IQ (conversational intelligence).” Nobody’s perfect, but leaders should be mindful of the power of chemistry. Take an extra moment before you speak: try to quiet negative impulses and communicate your best intentions. The positive, productive reaction you unleash, cognitively and chemically, will be your reward.
Share your experience: Do you notice lingering positive effects when you communicate in positive ways, and vice versa? What are you doing to shift the balance toward the positive? Share your responses to the weekly discussion question on our forum: Community of Practice Forum.
Not everyone we work with will be our best friends, and some may prove challenging to get along with; still, we often must rely on our co-workers for our own efforts to succeed. If a relationship at work proves troublesome, our natural inclination is avoidance. But this can be self-defeating.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Dorie Clark, strategy consultant and Adjunct Professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, advises acknowledging your own role in the tension, mentally pressing a “reset” button, and changing the relationship dynamic by avoiding past patterns.
We completely agree. We have long said that while we cannot change another other person, we can always change the way we react to that person. The first step is taking accountability for your part in the tension. Be observant as to how your reactions could be making a tense situation worse. Understand yourself and you will gain insight into the dynamic. Change your behavior and change the dynamic. You may not gain a BFF, but you can gain respect and cooperation
Please share your experience: What has worked for you in repairing damaged relationships at work? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
In his TED talk, Jason Fried, software executive and author of Rework, lambasts meetings as “toxic, terrible, poisonous things” that stifle productivity. He recommends finding ways to eliminate meetings, including more instant messaging and emailing.
Our take: Yes: Too many meetings are dysfunctional time bandits. But rather than abolishing meetings, make meetings great! Meetings should become places where differences of opinion yield better decisions and where the end product is far richer than any single contributor could have conceived.
Some keys to facilitating better meetings: Make the goals of the meeting clear. Tap the synergy of a group through rituals that invite quieter people into the conversation. Listen actively to whomever is speaking, including asking clarifying questions and paraphrasing before disagreeing. When you hear a good idea, acknowledge it. When group members realize they are influencing each other, energy, momentum and morale soar.
Please share your experience: What do you do to make meetings productive, inclusive and energized? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.