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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.

2 quick tips for productive meetings

Only too often, we sit in meetings, bored to tears by the tangential conversation, the conversation hoggers and the lack of relevance to the agreed agenda.

I’ve put together two magic tips you can use in your next meetings to save your time, increase engagement and maximise productivity.

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!

‘Why Aren’t They Listening To Me?’

notlisteningPicture this: you’re in a meeting and make, what you think, is a great suggestion. Everyone carries on talking. So, you repeat yourself. No response.

Twenty minutes later someone echoes your own suggestion and everyone stops as if they’ve heard the Divine Word and praises the speaker, leaving you totally flummoxed.

‘Why aren’t they listening to ME!’ cries your inner voice.

Here are a few tips to grab and maintain the attention of others: use in meetings, when managing up, down or sideways…

Use gesture

Vocal emphasis is key to speaking with enthusiasm and conviction.
Once you learn to use emphasis, your speaking will:


*look more engaging
*sound more interesting
*feel more comfortable


In order to emphasise effectively….

  1. use gesture in tandem with vocal emphasis
  2. vary vocal pitch and pause to underline important words/phrases
  3. maintain eye contact to the end of the sentence

Levels of information

Sometimes people go right for the detail when the listener wants the big picture or headlines. When there’s a mismatch in the level and quantity of information required, it can be a cause of communication frustration and is enough to flick the ‘off’ switch.

If you get too much detail, try phrases such as:

  1. ‘So, what you’re saying is…’
  2. ‘From what you’re saying, the main points are that…’
  3. ‘Right. Essentially, what I need to do is…’


If you need more information than you’re getting, use any of the following phrases:

  1. ‘Could you give me an example?’
  2. ‘Could you tell me more about……?’
  3. ‘What exactly would that be like…?’

 

‘BUT HOW DO YOU GET PEOPLE’S ATTENTION IN THE FIRST PLACE?’

 

 

I think the easiest way to answer this is to think about why we wouldn’t want to listen to someone before they even open their mouths.  Here’s a list of considerations:

  1. You don’t trust or like that person: you’re basing your opinion/feelings on previous contact.
  2. They physically cower, dominate, seem aggressive or passive aggressive or don’t look ‘genuine’:  how are they sitting/standing?  is there a false smile, slightly tightened jaw line or narrowed eyes?  Is there a ‘hard’ facial expression – that look in the eyes?  Does the person inappropriately mismatch the tone of the gathering, either physically or vocally?  Note, mismatching can be appropriate.  For example, if you want to energise a slumping group, you wouldn’t get very far if you slumped along with them!
  3. And…while I’m on mismatching…the pace of movement or speech seems to bother the listener.  Is it too fast and making you feel nervous?  Too slow and you feel frustrated?
  4. Vocally, they’re difficult to listen to: from the moment they open their mouths, you can’t understand the accent, hear the speech or the vocal tone is gruff or grating in some way.
  5. There’s inappropriate dress e.g. the probation officer giving a presentation as her top continued to ride up over her pregnant belly.  This slightly detracted from a serious message… or, and shall I be blunt here…?  Yes, why not…poor hygiene.  If someone has a strong personal smell, listening may be rather challenging since your sinuses are being coated with acidic aromas.
  6. You have external influences:  these could include too much noise from elsewhere distracting you; limited time; other priorities that you need to consider such as a deadlines, debt or darlings.  Or whatever – you get the picture!
  7. Physiological needs:  lack of sleep, needing the toilet or food, being too hot or cold could override anything going on around you, no matter how attention-grabbing the speaker may be.  In that case, deferring a conversation, allowing comfort breaks, breaking in food etc. will help immensely.
  8. From the speaker’s point of view belief and conviction in your message go a long way.  No matter about your posture, eye contact or voice, it’s the belief and conviction that you’ll project before you open your mouth and that can go a long way to drawing people in.

 

Another Bloody Meeting?

Another Bloody Meeting!

‘The convergence of alternative methodologies through blue-sky thinking should leverage business action-items for robust solutions.’

or, in other words…

Take a look at these ideas to make your meetings more productive…..

 

1)         Changing Places

If you have regular meetings with the same group of people, have you noticed where they sit?  Do they have the same seat every meeting, which they hold on to for dear life: I call this ‘The Three Bears Syndrome’ (Who’s sitting in MY seat!)

The problem with this, is that it also means that the mindset of individuals will be unlikely to alter. So, if you’ve quieter people in the group, swapping seating can help to balance out contributions.

Think back to meetings, where there’s little movement in the room: as soon as you change your posture or position around the table, you’ll also be thinking more freely.  If there’s a possibility to agree to do this as a group, even better.

2)         Anchor it

Many meetings would have agendas handed out beforehand but copy the contents on to a larger flip chart.  Now, when someone interrupts with an unrelated matter do this:

a)    Walk over to the flip chart, point to the matter you’re discussing and say ‘How is this issue related to the one here?’

b)    The speaker will then rephrase so that they connect the two or will retract.  You can always ‘Park’ it (see below).

c)    The next time, someone intervenes with an issue that might not be pertinent, walk over to the flip chart again, and ask the same question.

d)    After about 3 repeats, you’ll find that as soon as you lift the pen and look at the chart, they’ll automatically be prompted to reconsider statements to fit in with the agenda.

3)         Use Parking Places

This is immensely useful for when you think the meeting is being side-railed.  It’s simply a flip chart with issues, questions or comments that you need to come back to.  You’ll less likely to have A Monopoliser taking over the discussion, if they think you’ll get back to them.  These might be the basis of ‘Any Other Business’ or meetings that are best on a one-to-one.

4)        Decide on your feet

Meetings where people stand up, are shorter than those when all parties are sitting.   On average, standing meetings last for 10 minutes.  Sitting ones last – well gawd knows – the mug with the stop watch fell asleep before it finished.

One Accountancy practice for which I worked had a table that was waist-height and no chairs in their meeting room.  Meetings were short and succinct.  The fact that people can move easier around the table means that status games around the table are dissolved and decisions made more cohesively.  You may still want chairs, but round tables also help in more participative discussions and having people refer to decisions or process pinned onto flip charts hanging off the wall, means that participants will be more animated and the meeting will have greater energy.

The result:  everyone’s on the same page, and can, therefore, make a decision – other than when the next meeting should be…

We’re gonna be out there bumpin’ and thumpin’
(Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer on launch plans for Windows Vista)

and lastly…There might still be misunderstandings but they’ll be less likely to happen if you speak plain English!!!