I recently attended a meeting with Suzy Sour, a seasoned marketing professional who has decades of experience beyond my own. What surprised me was that, despite her lengthy career in the corporate environment, she demonstrated very little professional decorum with regards to our discussion. Our group consisted of a few professionals with comparable experience to Sour’s, but most of us have been in the professional services marketing arena for less than fifteen years. Throughout the roundtable meeting, some of the “less seasoned” marketers introduced new ideas or concepts that are being introduced within the legal marketing space. Suzy Sour, unfortunately, immediately answered that something similar had been done in the past and it was unsuccessful. “Next.” It was a strange response to ideas that could certainly have been developed into fresh new campaigns.
What any meeting’s Suzy Sour doesn’t understand is that by relentlessly reminding the group of her seniority through negativity, she is not asserting herself as a leader. She is alienating herself from the group, who would now like to work with anyone but her. A true team player listens and participates. And, in my opinion, a true leader facilitates. Don’t be the Suzy Sour of your meeting. You’ll leave the meeting unsatisfied and just as insecure as when it started.
A few tips for getting the most out of a meeting (whether it’s LMA, ALA, whatever):
1. Speak up. Your colleagues have gathered to share ideas and information. That means they want to hear your thoughts, too! You’re all there because more brains equal more ideas. However, if you disagree with a statement made by your colleagues, try to add another idea or build on it, as opposed to immediate, direct dissent. You’ll be rewarded for this. My favorite quote from Tracey Lalonde of Akina (She is my hero!) is that instead of preparing a rebuttal with “No, but,” choose to say “Yes, and…” Priceless advice. Practice it.
2. Spearhead an Initiative. For Shakeup readers in the early stages of our careers, this can be intimidating. What I’ve learned so far is that I know WAY more than I thought I did. You may have 15, 20, even 25 years less experience than a colleague, but there’s a reason you’re valuable. You have fresh ideas. Share them.
3. Follow Up, Quickly. This is me stereotyping and generalizing (sue me.). Those of us new to our careers get things done quickly. We have to. So if you do volunteer to take charge of an action item or lead a committee, follow up within the day on what’s coming next and in a timely manner regarding your progress. Many of us feel like we have something to prove (because we do.) and by demonstrating your commitment and reliability, you’re showing group leaders that you are a professional ready for more responsibility.
The takeaway: Suzy Sour’s only hurt themselves. By being an enthusiastic participant during a professional discussion, you’ll not only hear more from your colleagues, but they will also better “hear” you.