The first time I was invited to join the ‘board’ of a company, it was a non-profit organization, I was extremely excited. Being asked to serve on a board, I felt was a sign of respect for your skills and ideas. So of course, I quickly accepted and when the day of my first board meeting arrived, I walked confidently into the meeting room with a big smile, book full of notes, lot’s of ideas and full of energy. Halfway into the agenda, I threw out my first ‘great’ idea on the table, like a stack of chips in a Poker match. But to my surprise, the faces and reactions around the table looked blank, puzzled. A short, quite unenthusiastic discussion ensued, and my idea was shot down in flames. I wasn’t crushed by the reaction, a little rattled but mainly disappointed.
The following morning, a colleague who also sat on the board invited me to breakfast at Cora’s). After exchanging a few personal updates, she leaned across the table and asked, “Rob, have you every been on a board before?”
“No,” I answered with an apprehensive smile. “This is my first.”
“Well,” she said, “I’m going to tell you one simple but extremely important tip about board meetings.”
I wasn’t sure where she was going with this. I had a general understanding of what was expected of board members: to help guide the organization, oversight of financial standing, maintain certain levels of accountability, and a few other things of course. I thought, pretty cookie cutter stuff, what more was there to know?
“The idea you pitched yesterday was actually great,” she told me. “But you failed to build support for it in advance. You need to call around, get opinions, build concensus, and make sure you have a few people on your side before the meeting even starts. That way, when you’re pitching your idea, you’ll have already seeded a support group.”
She was right. The idea seems so obvious, yet it never occurred to me before that seeding a meeting was a necessary strategy to get to actionable outcomes. As I quickly realized, this strategy applies not just to board meetings, but to ANY meeting where you plan to present an idea or proposal. Lesson learned. If you’re trying to win support, why not give yourself a head start? Seeding a meeting is one of the many attention-to-detail strategies that, used wisely, can vault you beyond being good at your job to being great at it.