Business Meetings War Zones
New job in the White House? New job anywhere. New employees are usually stunned when they attend their first business meetings in companies they have always wanted to work for.
Boardrooms are usually war zones because of selfishness, resentment and ambition. Participants attend meetings with all kinds of weapons of destruction: stones, sticks, AK-47 guns, tanks and even nuclear bombs.
If you don’t like violence, assume the role of the peacemaker. You can only do that if you are really interested in what the company does.
It means reading a lot and talking to people in various departments, especially departments that do not have celebrity clout. They might be the main engines that bring in profits.
It is not easy being a peacemaker because of misinterpretation. Colleagues might think that you have your own ‘blonde ambition’ to quote American singer Madonna.
Books, e-books, and blogs about effective business meetings always have the big picture in mind: achieving the goals of the company so that it can make more money, or achieve whatever it was set up to do.
Enter the person called I. Not the “i” in iPhone, iPad or whatever Apple Inc. is cooking in its technology cauldron, but the selfish streak called “i”.
Business meetings usually have some sort of structure like an agenda, to help people prepare for the meeting, make PowerPoint presentations, bring product samples to the meeting, discuss the competition and its scheming ways, or bring dire news about the company’s ‘new direction.’
Translate that direction to job losses. This constant fear of losing one’s job is the reason why the office or any workplace business meeting is a toxic gathering. Corporate meetings are so dangerous, bullet proof vests and gas masks should be compulsory.
Very few people look forward to business meetings because they don’t know which dart is going to pin them to the wall.
Impressing The Boss
Most companies have what is called a vision or mission. I do not know the difference but some people have made money hand over fist, as vision and mission consultants.
They conduct workshops about what these two animals are. They even advise companies on what frames to use for these printed certificates that hang at the front desk/reception area.
It will be interesting to corner the Chief Executive Officer in the elevator and ask him: What is your vision or mission?
He probably doesn’t know but that is what meetings should be all about, unfortunately, the main focus tends to be about pleasing the boss.
The “i” in business meetings is solely geared to impressing the top brass. The most effective way is making my presentation very unique, even if it means cutting down some heads around the boardroom table.
The danger is that the systems and procedures I’m mercilessly attacking were designed by the Human Resources Manager who used to be the Marketing Manager, but I don’t know that. Be rest assured that she will remember that, when she advises the boss about the company’s ‘new direction.’
The Company 'Guru'
Company ‘gurus’ are the biggest obstacle to business meetings because most people fear them, including the boss.
All they do is about “i”. They do not have any meaningful contribution to make. It is all peacock stuff, to show off company history and procedures.
Company gurus get away with de-stabilising Monday meetings because:
They are eloquent, great command of the language.
Therefore, their comments are long, and scrape off precious time.
They make other managers insecure, because gurus pounce during presentations.
They know the company in and out because they have been there longer, or are experts in biochemistry, procurement, government policy, fashion retail, computers or whatever the company specializes in.
The best way to deal with company ‘gurus’ is to do extra homework and study the whole company, not just your section, be it merchandising, maintenance, design etc. This will help you anticipate their criticism and respond accordingly.
The “I” in business is unfortunate because it is not business as usual. There are no job guarantees anymore. The best strategy is aligning yourself with winning teams and people who understand that swimming together, and not swimming against each other, is the way to go.
We are not saying that your company will be auctioned off in September, but it is a good business strategy to ditch the ‘i’ and concentrate on the ‘we’. You can try with advertising yourself in business meetings without embarrassing co-workers, like the ‘guru.’
Constructive Self Promotion
You should shine in your career by doing the following.
Entertainment. Before Starbucks and the Italian restaurant, executives invited other executives to their homes, where they nibbled crackers, shared a pot roast with veggies and washed it all down with some port, whisky or cognac. Make that a monthly habit and it should be so good, it will be an honour to get an invitation. Concentrate on your enemies. You need them close to you, very close.
You will soon learn that you learn a lot about people, outside the stiff formal setting called ‘the office.’
Have weekly informal meetings with departments that feed into yours. Ask questions such as, “Do you think it will fly on Monday?” Everybody knows about the weekly Monday meetings.
Suggest joint presentations with departments that have a symbiotic relationship with yours. For example, if the presentation has 20 slides, the first ten should be Food and Beverage. The next ten slides should be Purchasing and Procurement. This demonstrates creativity and amazing teamwork.
Concentrate more on pleasing other managers and the boss less. You don't know who plays golf or goes to strip clubs with him. You just need people in your corner, when push comes to shove. Somebody should vouch for you.