How to speak up in meetings

Have you ever received feedback that you need to speak up more in meetings and contribute your point of view? Then this post will help you. 

I’m working with a client, let’s call him Julian, who is a technical expert and head of engineering in a scale-up company. He’s very knowledgeable in both his area of specialism and on people management/leadership (he’s cited as “the best manager” in the business), but as the start-up company has grown into a scale-up, his voice and impact at senior level have shrunk.

Recent performance feedback shows he needs to be more present, interacting with his peers and the business’s leaders so they hear his point of view. But Julian isn’t one to speak for the sake of it. He is reflective in nature, likes to gather all the information and process it to draw conclusions. So, chiming in on a flowing conversation is uncomfortable for him and he is concerned that providing another point of view might not show him as supportive to his colleagues.

Part of the challenge is that Julian has retreated to his comfort zone as other specialists have joined the business. He wants to give them space to get established and feels letting them speak more is good for them, but he also admitted he feels intimidated that they are arriving from big-name start-ups and he has been there a while. 

So, how did Julian learn how to speak up? 

Firstly, I asked Julian to articulate what his strengths are and what he is known for. By focusing on his brand and documenting how he generates positive impact, we reconnected him to his self-confidence. It helped for him to understand that while product managers arriving from other start-ups bring new ideas, he is the one who translates those ideas into functioning products and creates long-term value to the business and its clients.

Secondly, I suggested to Julian that he think of speaking up in meetings in three formats:

  • Observation – This is where Julian can show he is following the conversation and help enable his own and others’ understanding. It’s also a way to challenge others’ thinking without being confrontational. It sounds like: “That’s interesting, how did you get from A to B?” or “That’s a useful perspective, can you walk us through how you see that feeding into X plan?
  • Information – Here Julian can contribute his technical and business expertise. It sounds like: “Just to connect the dots, that plays well into how we are building out X.” or “To expand on that, this approach will make use of X capability and help expand on Y.
  • Validation – This is where Julian adds his support and showcases his strengths: “Yes, I agree, that would help solve X problem we are facing.

With this structure, Julian now feels he can then prep himself as to how and where he can voice his contribution in an authentic way. 

Finally, we also talked about referencing Julian’s style as a way to ease himself out of his comfort zone, for example: “You know I like to reflect, and I will certainly do that, but my initial thought is X. However, let me come back to you with further insights.”

And, to show how he adds a different perspective, I suggested he articulate which lens he is using, for example: “With my team manager hat on, my view (or question) would be that we think about X.” or “With my engineering lead hat on, how do you see that feeding into the product strategy longer term?

It will take practice but in just one coaching session, Julian has both the confidence tools he needs to address feedback and make his voice heard again.

If you’d like to speak up more and be heard in meetings for the right reasons, why not get in touch and let us help you understand your style, what value you bring and how to find the right questions?

Linkedin Louise Newton
Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST on Unsplash

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