The art of influence: Master the pre-meeting

Master the pre meeting

During one of our early pilot cohorts, a Powrsuiter shared her biggest challenge. Before big meetings, she would dutifully share her notes and read the agenda, only to turn up and find everything had changed. What was happening in the gap?

It turns out a lot.

Meetings, you have one job.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that meetings are where the action happens. After all, meetings have one job: to bring people together to achieve consensus. This is why many women leaders find themselves flummoxed when they turn up to find everyone else is already on the same page.

There’s a good reason for that. Remember the absolute outrage back in the day when Facebook changed their design? It’s because humans don’t like surprises. When you want to gain support for an initiative or opinion, the worst thing you can do is spring it on people. So, effective leaders master the pre-meeting.

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Nemawashi: The art of influence

Introducing Nemawashi: the Japanese art of building informal consensus in advance. Originally a gardening term, Nemawashi means “going around the roots” – preparing a plant for transplantation by carefully digging and trimming its roots. 

While the process is a semi-formal part of Japanese meeting culture, it can be adapted to any workplace. And it often is. From watercooler chat to shuttle and corridor diplomacy, informal consensus building is a traditional tool used by the world’s greatest influencers.

Get social

What does it mean for leaders? Socialise your ideas early. From quick one-on-one to small group get-togethers, get feedback, insight and challenge before formal meetings so you arrive in the best possible position. It doesn’t matter what stage you’re at in your career; if you want buy-in, identify your stakeholders and start influencing early. 

Presenting a recommendation, advice or initiative? Don’t wait until the big day to introduce people to your thinking – show your work early and encourage challenges. If you need support from other people or areas of the business, get their buy-in in advance so you have allies when making your case.

Heading to a board meeting? It’s not enough to submit your board paper – reach out to stakeholders to collect their feedback. This gives them the opportunity to ask questions and enables you to refine your storytelling and address any resistance.

Heading into performance review time? There should be no surprises. Great managers give feedback regularly so their team members know exactly where they stand before the formal one-on-ones

Everyone is an influencer

If the word ‘networking’ strikes fear in your heart, then don’t do it. Simply make genuine connections with your colleagues instead. 😉 

Yes, we know; it’s the same thing. But ‘networking’ can have a real stigma – we’ve all had business cards shoved in our hands by people already looking for their next target. However, networking is critical to leadership, and you need to invest in your networks to build consensus for your ideas and initiatives. This is especially true if you’re a hybrid or remote worker – intentionally build trust and nurture relationships to avoid the penalties of not being physically present.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: your work will never be good enough to speak for itself. You have to speak for it. Make time to get to know key stakeholders and keep them in the loop with key initiatives you’re working on. Offer and ask for support, so next time you turn up to a meeting, you know exactly what’s happening.

You earned that seat at the meeting table. Make it count.

30 second action

Identify one key stakeholder and organise an informal catchup.

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