Go to more meetings

“My state of preparedness is as good as the meetings I’m in.” 

Such was the response of a client to his boss when asked whether or not he was ready to step into a more senior leadership role in his current company.  The issue was that my client is expected to be able to make the move and take on more responsibility, yet he’s not currently involved in enough of the ongoing meetings to know everything – or everyone – he should know in order to make the move easily.

As a leader, he’s terrific – and he’s definitely ready to take on more, to increase both scope and scale.  But taking on next level leadership usually means having a broader perspective, which doesn’t happen organically.  There are issues in functions outside his current scope that he’ll need to understand when he moves to the next level.  His company had been acquired by a larger organization but he hadn’t met a number of the key players at the parent company as yet.  In several ways there’s opportunity being missed to help him get ready such that his transition is as smooth as possible.

The advantage of being – or selecting – an internal candidate for an executive role is that the individual is already in the business and has access to the knowledge and relationships that take time to acquire.  But that acquisition only happens with a plan and some extra effort, on the part of both the candidate and the organization.  Why not be proactive?

If you’re on the fast track in your organization, assess – and discuss – where your next steps might lie and put a plan in place to lay the groundwork as much as possible in advance of the change occurring.  Make a network map that pinpoints all the people you’ll need to know and relationships you should start building wherever possible.  Ask to attend key meetings wherever appropriate (knowing that sometimes it just won’t be) and look for extracurricular ways to meet key people so you’re more than a name on an org chart when talent conversations start to occur.

In today’s meeting-driven work culture there aren’t very many situations where you’d find me recommending anyone attend more meetings.  But if a few extra meetings mean you’re establishing a solid foundation on which to build your – and your company’s – success, it’s time well spent.

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