Ally or Observer? Make the Most of Your Next, Important Meeting

Last week I had the opportunity to meet with a number of teams who were going in to pitch ideas for future funding. The team with the best idea (and hopefully the best presentation…) would get the financing to make that idea a reality.

One of the questions I requested that they ask each other was, “What do you need me to be in this meeting—an ally or an observer?”

What do I mean by this?

Once the team’s leader has been declared or chosen, the rest of the team needs to take on one or the other – or sometimes both of these roles.

What does this look like?

When you’re acting as an ally, your job is to sit next to your teammates and to look at whoever is speaking as if s/he is the most fascinating person you have ever met.

Why?  Because if you, as a team member, aren’t visibly interested in what your team leader is saying, why should anyone listening to the presentation be interested?

If you’ve taken on the role of observer, your job is to take a constant inventory of the faces of those to whom you are presenting. Does she look bored? Does he look confused? Does she look disappointed? Does he look frustrated? Etc.

Keeping an eye on these emotions allows you, then, during the question and answer portion of the meeting to ask questions such as, “I noticed that there seemed to be some confusion when Joe talked about X. Is there something we can clear up for you?”

Working in this way has both immediate and long-term benefits. The people in the meeting have their questions and concerns addressed in the moment, and—almost more importantly—they leave feeling confident that you and your team are committed to staying on top of trouble-shooting going forward.

P.S. I hope you enjoyed Seymour modeling Ally or Observer… he’s an excellent member of any team!

For those of you on virtual teams, check out the top 10 ways to get the most out of your virtual team, “Feels Like (Virtual) Team Spirit”.