You Have a Seat at the Table, Now What?

Proceed as those bright yellow road signs advise—with caution.

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There are (thankfully) many leaders who invite others to (metaphorically and physically) sit at the table. Amazing. I imagine these moments as though opportunities are being passed off like batons in a track relay race. It is important to take advantage of these moments, have a strategy, and be prepared, but it is equally important to understand when to sit back and observe. 

If you are like me, we, as mid-level professionals, look forward to the ability to engage with leaders and share our insights. But just because you are invited to the table does not mean it is your time to speak out. We’ve all seen (or maybe, tail between the leg, have even been) that junior-level associate who shares his or her opinion on every single topic whether they were asked to do so or know much about the subject at hand. *Sigh* It truly is a difficult balance. When to share, when to observe, when to speak out, when to listen. We obviously want to be invited back to the table, so how do we display proper etiquette? 

A few ways. It takes acute awareness and attention to nonverbal cues to read the room. If the meeting is asking for opinions or if one of the leaders specifically looks to you to add in your experience, proceed as those bright yellow road signs advise—with caution. Never be too verbose, and do not ever be critical of a given project, program, or initiative (because chances are, someone in the room created, approved, or suggested it). Provide a solution instead of a problem. I like to joke with my team that I am not a problem solver, I am a solution seeker. 

So, you sat at the table. You were silent. Nodded. Agreed. Left. Do not chalk this less-than- desirable interaction up as a lost cause, but instead go directly to your email. Proactively type out a recap, filled with some insights you observed and ideas for new approaches or next steps. This shows you appreciated the opportunity and that, more importantly, you were engaged and can provide value. Some situations may not always provide you with the entirety of the opportunity, but they can give you that jump start you might need. 

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Image Credit: Alfred Quartey, via Unsplash

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