Mythbusters: How to Get That Seat at the Table

Will hard work alone really get you a seat at the table?


Amy Balog, founder of ConnexionPoint Services, shares how leaders can get a seat at the table in a sustainable way—and it’s because of not hard work as most believe. She provides four steps that will help leaders find their place at the table:

1. Know the point of view on the business, the marketplace and what your company does.
2. Invest in relationships.
3. Don’t think about what you have to get done, but about what context has to be built around what you're doing.
4. Know how to tell a story

Watch the video to hear Amy explain more about these four steps.

So how do you actually have a seat at the table? This is an interesting topic because I work with a lot of very driven leaders that want their voice heard, they want their work respected in the organization and they are high achievers. And so they want that proverbial seat at the table.

First of all, before you think about what you need to do, you have to think about some things that could mislead that you could get that seat. And one of those things is that, in some specific situations with some folks, where they think if they're just heads down and working really hard in their area and they're going to deliver those results no matter what and they're going to say yes to everybody and they're just never going to pull back, that hard, hard work, that heads-down hard work is going to give them the seat at the table.

And the challenge with that, the very big challenge with that, is sometimes your brand, who you are and what you're about, can be all about just that work. That work, that function of what you're doing and you're still isolated to that. Sure, they appreciate your hard work and they'll probably double the ask next year.

So that's not the only thing that has to be done. The other thing that sometimes happens that maybe people think they can get to seat at the table is they're always the yes person to their boss. And they're very, as I call, single-threaded to some senior leadership, just the senior people. And they think that that's good. Of course, there are some downsides. First of all, you can be viewed as that person's person. You can also… Hey, leadership changes, right? Really, what does it mean to be able to walk in and have a seat at the table in a sustainable way?

And there are four things. The first one is that you have to think about, "Do you have a point of view on the business, the marketplace, what your company does?" And how much does that get you up and going? What do you really care about it? What really, really engages you with the potential growth of the business? And do you have points of view that when you talk about them, they mean something to you?

The second thing to get a seat at the table is to invest in relationships, as everybody writes about, wide and deep. And you get to know all corners of the company. You understand what parts of the company… What they do and how they connect. And this is regardless of your function. You can be articulate, what I say, across the bridge. That's the second thing.

The third thing is to think not about what you have to get done, but what context has to be built around what you're doing. In other words, context is king. How do they see and experience the business, those people that work in that department that's different from mine? How can I speak to that? How do I build relevant context to what I'm talking about in the moment I'm talking about it that really matters? It's not just what I'm talking about, it's that build up. It's that perspective that you're sharing, and you're connecting everybody else's perspective to the topic.

The actual fourth thing, which is huge, is you do have to know how to tell a story. I mean, that is actually a skill. You can learn storytelling and find out a way that works for you to engage the arc of what you're talking about. And between those four things, the point of view, the relationships, the context, the storytelling, all of that done on a really consistent basis, you can make your way to that seat at the table.

Amy Balog

Amy Balog is the founder of ConnexionPoint Services LLC, a leadership and executive coaching firm with a unique focus to help leaders and teams "lead from center" in the face of constant disruption. Over the last decade, Amy has worke...

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