Sylvia Henderson

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SL Column: A Seat At The Table

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A Seat at the Table

     One of the reasons I hear for limiting – or avoiding – learning to ride a motorcycle is that the potential rider’s feet do not touch the ground. Either the bike is so high or the seat is so wide that a person with a short inseam cannot place both feet flat on the ground while straddling the motorcycle.

     What limits you from having a seat at the table of the decision makers in your organization (if you do not have such a seat)? Do you need to have a seat at the table? What does having one mean to you?

     Taking the last question first, typically having “a seat at the table” means that you have the ear of and influence with the decision makers of your organization – however you define these people. It also typically refers to being included in meetings with decision makers at the conference table.

     The second question – do you need such a seat? If you have influence and private audience with the key people in your organization with whom you need such things, then you may not need to actually be included in meetings “at the table”. In fact, you may have more effect by not being so visible to others.

     If you do need to have a seat at the table – literally or figuratively – and feel you do not have such, what limits you? One limiter may be your communications style. Decision makers tune out long-winded communications. To reach these people you must be concise and to-the-point. Written communication is most effective when restricted to one page with wide margins, or one screen view without scrolling. Verbal communication is most effective when firm, confident, and directed specifically at each individual. Decision makers respond best to benefits related to themselves, their goals, or their organization’s bottom line. Clearly defined charts and supporting numbers or customer/client views help bring your points home.

     Make your communications style match that of your decision makers’ and you are more likely to be accepted and have influence at the seat of the table.

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