The 4 Power Positions and how to use them in meetings

Where you choose to sit shows your status. What are you unwittingly revealing about yourself as you sit in meetings?

Most people unknowingly adopt a role at the meeting table.   However, there are some players who’ll consciously decide what impact they want and choose where to sit accordingly.

If you want to have more choice on how you play on this type of stage, let’s decode the 4 Power Positions that impact on involvement.

Power Position 1

The First Power Position is occupied by the person who’s (supposed to be be) steering the meeting.  It provides a clear view of everyone including whoever is entering the room.  Think back to 100,000 years ago when you lived in a cave.  You’d never have your back to the opening, in case a cave bear wanted to nudge you out the way.  So seats facing the door (think modern offices) are always a prime position.

Power can be quiet so it doesn’t mean you’re the most vocal.  In this position you may be :

  1. raising issues;
  2. bringing speakers in;
  3. setting procedures;
  4. summing up.

 

Power Position 2

This is Power Position 2 – usually reserved for second-in-command.

Because the position is directly opposite the Chairperson, this seating could be used to launch combat, especially in tricky negotiations or internal meetings where there’s a power struggle.

If the Chairperson wishes to avoid such situation in the case they may be likely, the following pictures will give you ideas for alternatives.

 

 

 

 

The Middle Positions

This seat is ideal for chairing when there are no seats at the head of the meeting.

 

It’s also a handy position for rounding up, mediating and summarising.  This is because you can see everyone’s bright shiny faces.  And when they look glum, bored or combative, you can use your radar vision and central placing to politely ask:  “Do we have enough time for the other 15 items that are on the agenda in our 30 minute meeting.”  (The answer will hopefully be ‘afraid not’).

 

This seat is useful taking a low profile.  Don’t want to voice your opinion?  Sit here.  Don’t want to be the centre of attention?  Choose this seat. Want to size up the situation and observe others?  Park your bum in this place.

 

 

Flanking Positions

On the Chairperson’s right, indicated by the green disc, is the person to whom they look for guidance

On their left, indicated by the yellow disc, sits ‘the leader’s assistant’.  This is a good position from which to:

  • gently remind where you’re up to in the meeting
  • speed up the meeting or slow it down.

 

…and there are 2 techniques for this role, one that will make you cherished at every meeting because it keeps everyone to the point and stops time wasting.  But more on that in later posts.

Have a go

One of my workshop participants in Managing Up, Down and Sideways, told me they’d had a client meeting with this arrangement: seats 2 and 3 were taken up by her and her colleague, both partners in a Law firm, with seat number 8 offered to a client who was already disgruntled before the meeting and completely dissatisfied by the end.

You’ll see the partners have put themselves towards the door and the client has his back to it.  They’re also on the same side, which makes a metaphorical statement.

Where would you put the client, yourself and the partner, if the client was visiting your office?  Bear in mind that there may be more than one answer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.S.

You’ll find that Power Positions can also apply in social gatherings?  Notice someone dominating?  Observe where they’re sitting.  See the one trying to keep a low profile?  Look at their position.

The 7 faces of managers

There's more than one version of you

There’s more than one version of you

The ability to wear different hats is essential for anyone managing others. You don’t have to have an acting background but you will need to know how to play 7 different roles, which are as follows:

1.  Leader

In industrial sectors and economies a foreman would be making sure everyone adheres to a system, and organise processes and people. In the knowledge economy management and leadership are not easily separated. People look to their managers, not just to assign them a task, but to define a purpose: managers must organize workers, not just to maximise efficiency, but to nurture skills, develop talent and inspire results.

 

2. Catalyst

A manager has to make things happen but through other people. They need to motivate in order to be able to delegate. Sometimes, thus feels like pinning down a fish because what propels individuals to action isn’t set in stone. Honing in on what makes individuals tick is a necessary skill that you can develop.

 

3. Coach

Your team members may need your guidance. Sometimes it’s quicker to do it yourself (got children? Then you’ll know what I mean). The problem with that is they’ll be hanging off your Herman Miller chair and no amount of rotating will shake them off since you’ve just developed co-dependants. Put a bit of coaching in upfront and you’ll free up your time later.

 

4. Observer

To make progress, you need to note what’s going on and how people operate in that paradigm. Then decide how to interact in that world. Whether you need to change your leadership style or the way you influence depends on the status quo you observe. Change is a constant so by keeping your eyes and ears open, you’ll find a way to optimise your teams.

 

5. Peer

You could look on and tell your team what to do or roll up your sleeves and collaborate. Looking on develops a ‘them and us’ situation. There are times when professional distance will not win respect but resentment. Collaboration engenders greater respect and shows that you can walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

 

6. Supporter

A supporter provides support. If you already guessed that, well done to you.

Delegation isn’t always just a matter of sending people off to work on a project or task. You may be the one with budget and resources they need. Support can come in the way of feedback, structure, equipment, being a sounding board, providing space and time to your people. Either way, delegation is not a matter of ditching responsibility. Even if you do let go of the reins, you need to know where they are.

 

7. Challenger

To get the best out of people, a certain level of challenge could keep them on their toes.

Without challenge, individuals can coast, sacrificing the resourcefulness that’s necessary in shifting sands. It also reflects a level of faith in people when you encourage them to reach beyond themselves. Do make sure that this aspiration for them, though, matches the one they have for themselves otherwise you’ll need to sell it more.

 

Have you got anything to add to these roles? Is there one I’ve omitted?

Feel free to let me know in the comments…

Why stories work

tell them your story

A story replaces information overload

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today,”

(Robert McAfee Brown)

There are two ways to share knowledge: either you can push information out or you can pull people in with a story.

Whether you need to sell a product or change behaviour, stories are vital to your success.  Here you’ll find 5 reasons why having an anecdote up your sleeve will immediately change how people perceive you.


1. Stories can simplify the complex through a metaphor.

For example, the tale of the pig farmer who realised that overnight his stock was worth half .  On the strength of the potential sale, he’d taken out loans for barn repairs and equipment.  The debts stayed the same but his income was halved, pushing him into further debt.
This story was used to explain the effect of the devaluation of oil in Russia.  A metaphor that those unfamiliar with macro economics would be able to digest.


2.  They make no claims so aren’t threatening.

So instead of saying, ‘If you don’t buy this anti-virus package for your computers, you’ll be in trouble’, you can tell the story of how using BungleBoo Anti Virus system allowed a virus into your computer like water though a sieve, destroying your client base, all your documents and forcing you to have to purchase a watertight new laptop.


3.  Want to change the way someone is doing something? 

Tell them about the time that you didn’t buy travel insurance, broke your legs in Albania and ended up paying an arm and another leg to get home .   Much better than dishing out the advice with ‘you should/shouldn’t’, which just tends to get up people’s noses.


4.  If you want to make a strong point, this becomes easier to internalize and remember by building a sense of anticipation.

When I give short seminars on cross cultural presentations, I tell half the story of Richard, who worked for a large US bank and was trying to tie up a deal in the United Arab Emirates. He had to fly to Abu Dhabi several times before he won the deal.  However, it wasn’t his PowerPoints that won the day but 3 small adjustments he made to how he communicated.  I start the story at the beginning of the presentation, and by the end, they’re dying to know what happened to him so that’s when I complete the tale.

If you make your audience want to know the outcome, they’re more likely to remember it.

Click here to see me telling the story.


5. Fires imagination and provides role models for action.

For those that need a bit of encouragement being resourceful when resources are limited, the story of Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop, could be encouraging.  The logo of the Body Shop is entirely down to the fact that when she opened her first shop in Brighton,  it was cheaper and easier to find a green colour to match the mould-riddled signage.  Purchasing new signage wasn’t in her budget.  That decision gave birth to the globally recognised Body Shop brand.

Such a story of resourcefulness can make you think  ‘Goodness, if she can do it, so can I.’


6. Potential customers can identify with an issue and are more likely to then want to buy from you

Instead of ‘selling’ a product or service you give a case study of a problem that existed before e.g. boring presentations or bullish managers.

People can relate to a commonly shared problem and will act on an issue to which they can relate.  If they empathise with it, you only need to say how you’d work with them because they have an instant picture of what you do and the challenges you can help them overcome.
By the way, the tales you tell reflect your experience, knowledge and what’s important to you, adding to your credibility.
And for those of you who say you’ve got no stories, I bet I could help you find one, even if it’s not your own…

Look on the courses page here or contact me and I’ll help you find your story.

 


So much for the melting pot…

touching headsYou go on holiday to the quaint country of Kapistan and expect the locals to be friendly and warm on this island.

In fact, many of the inhabitants live in mountain villages, cut off from main roads until 20 years ago, they’re cold, suspicious and unhelpful.

What you don’t know is that they warm up if:

a) you express your love of the antelope;

b) you know all 20 words for rock and

c) you nod a lot.

Although this is a fictional land, the spirit of the rules – if not these particular ones – is worth knowing in an increasingly complex world, where we’re expected to already know the etiquette by sniffing it in the air. That’s not very practical so here are a few tips to see you through the multi-cultural maze.

 

What it means to you is not the same for me

Andy was infuriated with his manager, Jacques, for pointing out unsatisfactory work in front of others at a meeting.

Deciding not to make his anger known to the group, Andy resolved to approach Jacques about his behaviour. However, Jacques was confused. He couldn’t see why Andy should be upset at being reprimanded so openly.

The fact that Jacques is French and Andy was American had much to do with the conflict of management style.

In France, managers are more concerned about professional jealousy and try to mitigate against that by reproaching in public and rewarding in private.

In the States, this is reversed.

 

‘Surely we show interest in the same way’

No, we don’t: coaching a Japanese Banker in Presentations revealed an interesting difference. We were discussing how to tackle difficult questions when he said that if his particular audience of Senior Managers in their late 50’s and 60s were to start asking him any questions, he would know that he’d already lost the game. However, this may not be the case with a younger audience.

 

Collectivism versus individualism:

The collectivism more common in Spain unsettled Ferdy, from Germany, when the Engineering company to which he was seconded had a team picnic at the beach. Not only were the team there, but the families: children, partners, fiancés: even a dog turned up with the crowd.

 

Directness versus indirectness:

The Indian clients I’ve worked with have thrown up several paradoxes that can cause problems in the West.

The Indians tend to be more direct in some circumstances than, say, in Britain, but the Brits are more pointed in other ways and this can very confusing unless someone decodes the behaviour.

For example, when presenting at senior level in India, there’s a huge expectation to embellish your talk with stories and side points .   In the U.K., it’s more like ‘We’ve only got 5 minutes left. Could you make it quick?’   New York will be 5 seconds on a quiet day.

However,  Indians can be more direct when making requests, and very much so when expressing an opinion. In order not to alienate a whole team, I’ve had to teach indirect requests and embedded commands. (To check out the Indirect Requests, go here…)

 

How does your body talk?

Since so much of how we communicate is non-verbal, are you aware whether your body language is telling people to ‘get lost’ or whether it’s saying ‘OK’?

I was watching a Japanese tour guide in a restaurant, as she was organising the orders of 25 Japanese tourists in Chihuahua, Northern Mexico, with the Mexican staff.

With tourists, she kept physical distance, even though she evidently knew them quite well. However, when conversing with the Mexican staff, she was physically closer and more tactile. When I say more tactile, she wasn’t launching herself in their arms, but there’d be a short touch on the forearm and longer direct eye contact.

There was conflict between Naaz, a male Indian client from Bangalore and a female British-born Indian woman, Sandra, who complained that Naaz dismissed her decisions.   Naaz, on the other hand, claimed she never seemed committed to her opinions.

What Sandra needed to realise was that in Indian culture, where gender imbalances are so distinct, it’s often the case that a women would need to come across with ‘more steel’ than in British culture. I’ve found that to be the case from Italy to the Middle East.

Much of this comes from three non-verbal cues:

1) direct and prolonged eye contact
2) depth of voice
3) physical commitment e.g. strong gestures rather than fidgeting

However, when you’ve put your foot out of sync with culture, you won’t always know. When people do make their dissatisfaction clear, they can’t always tell you explicitly what you’ve done to so offend.

It’s your choice whether you adapt to another culture, but finding someone who can help you through the cross-cultural maze will allow you to get your message across and keep relationships bubbling away at the same time.

‘It is what it is’ and other meaningless palliatives

Forgotten how good it can be?

Forgotten how good it can be?

Years ago I saw the film, Baraka.  It’s a visual treat, showing some truly beautiful aspects of nature and culture alongside the ability of ‘civilisation’ to destroy what is precious.

I remember one scene in the film showing a native tribe in Brazil, rowing along the Amazon. Next shot, native tribes boxed in tatty blocks of dark flats, squeezed against each other, perching precariously on a deforested mound.

Yet those families, who had been running free not so long ago, looked quite content in their cramped homes. It’s a testament to the enduring human spirit or rather, how we can get quite used to a crappy situation.

What we are often seeing is not the victories of the human spirit but the amnesia of the human mind.

We forget how great we can be, how rewarding our jobs can be, or, our lives, affecting the possibility of businesses and individuals to more than just ‘manage’.

 

 

1. Hit ’em in the gut

Persuading people to change means showing reminding them of two factors:

1) Exactly how crappy things are now;
2) Exactly how great it could be for them.

When presenting and persuading, you need a balance of the analytical – facts, data, evidence – and the emotion.

The reason for this is that although the numbers will convince, we’re ultimately stirred into action by emotion, a concept that Chip and Dan Heath wrote about in their book, ‘Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard’. They picked on a Deloittes survey that analysed the decision making process of 400 people in 130 companies across four continents and proved that when you hit people in the gut, those feelings will be more likely to generate action.

 

2. Make it tangible:

Something that can be seen is more persuasive than concepts.  In trying to prove how having numerous suppliers for any one item was reducing a company’s ability to attain competitive prices, a graph plotting the expenses could be projected on the wall.

Alternatively, throwing the identical and variously-priced objects on the board table,  the point of wasting money through decentralised purchasing decisions is made more succinctly.  It’s visual and real, allowing people to see and feel, in both senses of the word.

To read a case study of Joe Stegner did this at Deere, go here.

 

3. Focus on the individual:

When charities plead for money, they don’t show you a matrix of data but a face of a child (usually). In their literature, they will then focus on the story of this one individual to explain the issues. Take us for a moment into the life of another and we can walk in their shoes without having to take ours off.

 

4. Build an imaginary contrasted future

Paint a vivid picture of the situation now:

a) What are you seeing now that isn’t working?
b) How will this problem make everything worse?
c) What else will go wrong if we carry on like this?

Paint the enlightened future:

a) What would we see that will tell us the situation has improved?
b) What else would get better as a result of this?
c) What are the first steps to make this change easy, whereby we’d get our first small wins?

 

How to use these techniques:

You could apply them:

  • in a pitch or presentation
  • to change behaviour in feedback situations
  • in persuading teams of the benefits of forthcoming change
  • for marketing or advertising products

 

So when will you use one of these methods and how will you apply it?

Let me know here!

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Why do boneheads get bonuses?

 

Peep-o!

Peep-o!

Being seen means you’re keen

Andy was seething between slurps of his Americano (formerly known as plain old ‘black coffee’).  “There’s this guy at work and he got a massive pay rise this year and now he’s managed to hop over to another company and he’s on £95k a year. He’s not heading a department or anything. He’s got a team of two and he’s coding and stuff.”

“He must be damn good then.” I suggested.

“No. He’s a bloody idiot, actually”

“So how come he’s doing so well, financially speaking, anyway?”

“One thing,” said Andy. “Visibility.”

Visibility is the key. Every time this guy – let’s call him – Guy (yep, my imagination is on freefall today) – achieved a milestone, set something up, resolved a problem he’d send an email out to managers.

 

Snatching credit vs. giving credit

Sitting with me was Andy’s girlfriend, Yolanta who voiced something that many of you may share:

“Doesn’t that make you an utter tosser, announcing every single thing you’re done. I mean, that’s like the whole Facebook thing: ‘look at me in a restaurant/on a beach.’ It’s so smug.”

I’d say there’s a thin line between having high visibility and being a total cretin and Guy crossed it regularly, appropriating a Wiki initiative that was set up by Andy as his ‘own project’.

 

Protecting your achievements

Since our conversation, Andy has created coding for a huge client with Guy regularly hovering over him wanting to know when it was ready so he could let management know about it (for which he’d take the credit, not Andy).

Andy lied, telling Guy he wasn’t sure the coding worked and there were a few bugs, thereby protecting his intellectual copyright.  Time passed and Andy suddenly announced the successful completion of the project to all.

What made Andy look more like ‘leadership material’ was not only the fact that he informed senior management of a completed milestone, but that he also named and thanked his team for helping him, copying them into the email.

As a result of his increased visibility, Andy has been rewarded with a handsome pay rise.

As for Guy the thieving Magpie, snatching triumph from below the noses of others, we’re sure that his high paying role is nothing but danger money for he has flown unknowingly into a highly adversarial atmosphere: no ping pong in the canteen there but a magpie fest of feather pulling where Guy comes off looking rather forlorn and burned out.

There now, that’s better: a little schadenfreude to help the coffee go down.

 

 

Give them a Wallop!

Sock it to them!

Sock it to them!

Getting cut short in your prime

You get in front of senior management, having prepared your 30 minute presentation, having practised your body language, eye contact and tricks to engage the audience.  You’re ready to go: all psyched up and beating with adrenalin.

OK.  That’s what you imagined.  One participant on my 2-day Knock Out Presentations course asked:

“What happens once in the Board Room when they’re running late, like they always do.  You’re 10 minutes from the end of the meeting and you’re asked to spit out your message there and then”

Here’s what you can do:

  • Tell them exactly what you want – but without the rationale you’re more likely to get refused;
  • Whizz through your slides, talking twice as fast.  You’ll sound like Mickey Mouse on amphetamines and they’ll take in nothing.
  • Chuck your handouts across the table – if you’re lucky they’ll go through them before forgetting about the contents. The worst scenario is that the pages will be made into paper planes flying towards the recycling bin.

 

Walloping the Board when you’ve little time

Instead, try this technique, ‘The Wallop, Down, Up, Please’ approach. Before I explain, I would love to take the credit for this but must, reluctantly, give this to Andy Bounds author of the ‘Snowball Effect, Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable’. My pride is dented but I hope to get Karma points for not saying it’s my own original invention…

Here we go:

1. Wallop – Give the impact of the situation, usually negative. This hits the ‘pain’ button, telling the audience the impact of not doing something;

2. Down – Make the situation worse (“And, as a result, this will also happen…”);

3. Up – Give the alternative that improves the situation;

4. Please – Now make your request

 

 

And an example:

1. Wallop – We’re spending £230,000 per month on X

2. Down – Even worse, the number will increase over the next couple of months. Projected needless waste will cost £2.8 million this year. This will increase to over £5.6 million in the next couple of years.

3. Up – We can reduce these costs by over 75% – that’s a potential saving of over £4 million – by implementing x (Spend 2-3 minutes explaining your proposal, using ‘What, Where, When, How)

4. Please – Given that successful implementation could deliver £4 million of savings, please can I ask you to Action X?

 

(Thanks, Andy, for your example. You may nick my model below for your next book).
A similar model is the PROEP, so you’ve got two tools you can use when they say “Sorry, but could you just give us a quick overview. We’ve run out of time.”

You can find the PROEP structure here.

What do you do when you need to get your point across quickly?

Got a request you want to wedge into this structure?

Let me know in the comments!

How not to leak when you speak

‘How not to leak when you speak’ isn’t  about waterworks – yours, or anyone else’s you’ll be relieved to know – but how we unintentionally make certain gestures that unwittingly betray our messages.

Watch this 3 minute clip to find out what gestures you may make and how to overcome the seepage/leakage.

Either way it sounds disgusting. It’s not, though – you’ll see what I mean…

 

Want to add something on how we can seem more convincing and confident when communicating?  Drop your comment right down there:

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How to increase your ‘Presence’

 

It's all about connection

It’s all about connection

Some people seem to find catching the attention of others effortless, be it in a job interview, presentation or a meeting.

What is it they’ve got that other people haven’t?

Charisma?

Presence?

What are the qualities that make some people more trustworthy, authoritative and persuasive?

The good news is that these qualities can be learnt…read on if you’re interested in getting other’s attention (without shouting or doing the Shimmy Shake).

Let’s imagine Eugene needs to stand in front of his business partners and persuade them to pool resources on a new venture.  He needs to appear more authoritative, trustworthy and persuasive so what qualities do you think are vital?

According to work conducted at the University of Lausanne. lead by Professor John Antonakis,  there are a set of twelve communication habits that Eugene would need to adopt.

When Antonakis was conducting the study of what would give people like Eugene that extra ‘zing’, he was actually looking at ‘charisma’.

The Latin root of ‘charisma’, ‘charis’ means ‘favour’ and the whole word therefore translates as to ‘exhort favour’.  In other words, ‘being influential’.  Not every leader or manager needs to be – or can be – ‘charismatic’ with its ‘wow the room’ implication but to be engaging is vital.

Eight of the techniques of engaging others, are verbal:

  1. using metaphors;
  2. easy-to-remember three-part lists;
  3. telling stories;
  4. drawing vivid contrasts;
  5. asking rhetorical questions;
  6. expressing moral conviction;
  7. reflecting an audience’s sentiments;
  8. and setting high but achievable goals.

The rest are non-verbal: raising and lowering your voice, letting your feelings show in face and hand gestures to reinforce what you say.

All these skills are based on Aristotle’s theory of rhetoric that can be broken down thus:

  • Ethos – establishing your credentials and building rapport;

This could be done during a presentation, by Eugene sharing his experience through anecdotes, for example, and reflecting the audience’s concerns and language.  Credibility may be established beforehand through reputation. Eugene may have a harder job if his audience think he had his hand in the pension fund, in which case, establishing credentials through colourful stories may be as productive as skiing uphill in slippers.

  •  Logos – persuading through logic

By showing cause and effect, before and after, theory next to experience, Eugene will be using logic to influence.

  • Pathos – persuasion with emotion

Try talking about something your are looking forward to in a flat, unmodulated voice with no movement. Then do this with gesture to underline points your emphasise with vocal colouring.  That is the addition of ‘pathos’.  Do be aware of cultural variations, though.  For example, more open, expressive movement would be expected in southern Europe than Northern Europe.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter,  a Professor from Harvard in her blog ‘Why you need Charisma’,  says that it’s how well you listen as opposed to being heard, that will make you influential.  For her, ‘charisma’ is the quality of silence as well as speech.

According to Professor Kanter, active listening is vital:  the questions you ask to seek understanding, reflecting back key phrases, steering a conversation through non-verbals.

Whether in a presentation or the Q and A afterwards both the verbal and non-verbal engagement will be vital.  In meetings, pitches, and interviews getting the balance between active listening and speaking in an engaging way will mean that you have presence.  Both Professors Antonakis and Kanter are spot on.

 

 

 

How where you sit affects your influence…

I’d been speaking to some accountants who had a disastrous client meeting.

It turned out that it was all in the seating so I’ve made this quick video so you can see how to avoid conflict and steer actions through the simple mastery of the Four Positions for Influence in Meetings.

No choreography, Kama Sutra or Yoga. These positions are much quicker to learn and won’t break your back!

Happy watching!