Ah, meetings! The one work function everyone agrees is inefficient and unproductive and yet no one is quite willing to eliminate. Since they’re a given, let’s talk about how you can use the meeting platform to launch your career and your standing with your boss and peers, or, conversely, how you can destroy your credibility.
Believe it or not, there are things you can start doing, stop doing, or continue doing today regarding meeting behavior that will completely revamp your professional brand. Here are some credibility busters that you will want to stop immediately. Conversely, doing the opposite of these will elevate you to superstardom in your company’s eyes.
We’ve already established that no one particularly enjoys meetings, but nothing says “I have no respect for you or your time” more than being late. Even worse is being late and then letting the meeting facilitator bring you up to speed. When I’m teaching people how to run better meetings the first thing we agree on is to stop catering to the late people!
Everyone has been guilty of interrupting at one point in their lives, and most of your colleagues will overlook an isolated incident, but serial interrupting in meetings does major damage to your credibility. Don’t be ‘that guy (gal)’ who just can’t resist finishing someone’s sentences, or is so self-important and impatient that you only let others talk while you’re breathing, eating, or formulating your next sentence. Rather than win friends and influence people, this behavior will get you eye-rolls at best, black-listed at worst.
Much like being late, being unprepared just makes it seem like you have little respect for your colleagues. It also makes you appear incompetent. Unfortunately, your reasons for being unprepared will carry little weight, unless they’re extraordinary. Everyone is busy, with hectic lives. If you let that keep you from bringing you’re A-game to the meeting then your credibility will suffer.
It doesn’t really matter whether you’re checking your feed, answering a customer complaint, or sending an urgently requested response to the president of the company; when you’re distracted with your electronic devices during meetings, it looks bad. If you know you’re going to be interrupted, let the meeting facilitator know in advance and quietly step out of the meeting to handle the emergency, but don’t scroll through your phone during the meeting.
Healthy conflict during meetings can be incredibly positive and constructive, but rudeness doesn’t do anyone any good, and will definitely hamper your credibility. And unfortunately, it really doesn’t matter whether your colleague has it coming or not. You are better served taking the high road with grace and dignity. This is not to say you should be a doormat, but rudeness is never acceptable and will not help your credibility.
Nothing can kill your credibility faster than appearing defensive. Your colleagues have the right to be wrong, and more than that, so do you. The most successful people realize that there are few hills to die on in the workplace, and avoid sweeping, blanket statements. My best advice is to approach disagreement with an attitude of curiosity rather than defensiveness. Seek to understand, and your credibility will only grow.
Qualifying your thoughts is an instant credibility killer. Usually qualifying comes from a desire to appear humble or not to be overbearing or arrogant. But saying things like “I might be wrong but,” or “This might be crazy but,” doesn’t make you sound humble, just weak and lacking confidence. Instead, state your opinion in a calm and open manner and keep your attitude of curiosity.
So, even though you may not be able to avoid meetings, you can at least use them to polish your professional communication and presentation skills.
Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions; a Seattle-based consulting firm dedicated to providing business owners peace of mind and job fulfillment by ensuring their management teams are equipped to run their businesses successfully. A certified executive coach, organizational development expert, and HR Professional, Carrie consults with small to medium-sized businesses on management, leadership, and recruiting solutions in addition to providing career coaching to managers and executives in transition.
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