I spend most of my day in meetings and talking on the phone. How about you?
There are repeatable elements to a great meeting: Have an agenda, take notes, assign action items, instill accountability. All of that stuff is good.
But none of it is better than this piece of advice I received early in my career. I call it the golden rule of meetings.
The golden rule of meetings states that if you get invited to a meeting, “say at least one thing.”
When you don’t speak up…
In a world where scheduling a meeting is easier than ever, many of us are invited to a lot of meetings. Meeting fatigue is real.
Sometimes you’re a little less familiar with the subject, so you don’t speak up. Or maybe you’re intimidated by senior leaders in the room, so you stay on mute. Maybe you’re just pretty damn busy and trying to multitask in the background.
Whatever the reason, you don’t actively participate. You hop on the call, stay silent, then hang up and move on to the next to-do on your list. And the company is worse off for it.
The golden rule of meetings would prohibit that kind of behavior. “Say at least one thing.” Have a presence. Be active. Participate. Make it a habit.
“Be a participant, not a passenger.”-Brian H. Quinn*
You might think the reason you were invited to the meeting is to simply “be aware” of what’s going on. I often see this in younger professionals just starting out.
Yes, listening is necessary, but if you are there, be there to contribute.
*BTW, I did just quote myself. It’s not the coolest thing I’ve ever done, I’ll admit, but the sacrifice had to be made. And if I can quote myself in my own blog, you can say at least one thing in a meeting.
What’s at stake?
OK, so it’s pretty simple: If you’re in a meeting, say at least one thing. But … why? Why does it matter whether you add your 2 cents, especially when some meetings tend to drag as-is?
First, saying at least one thing matters to the company. Diversity of thought leads to sound decision-making and better outcomes.
Ironically, the further you are from the most senior person in the room, the more valuable your perspective becomes to them. It’s a point of view they can’t get on their own.
Second, saying at least one thing matters to your brand. Your professional brand. When you participate, even if it’s just enough to let people know you aren’t asleep, you are viewed as engaged.
The alternative is meeting purgatory. Coming and going without anyone even knowing you were there. If the term “ghosting” wasn’t already taken by the millennials, I’d coin it here.
The golden rule of meetings is one of the simplest lessons you can learn to help your career.
So, take a look at your calendar. What’s your next meeting? Why not make it golden?