5 Steps to Earning Your Place at the Table

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An easy, step-by-step approach to building up your confidence, effectiveness, and contributions and get yourself a seat at the table.
5 Steps to Earning Your Place at the Table

One of the questions I’m often asked is how to build up your leadership presence and get invited into more senior-level discussions and projects even at the very beginning of your career growth.

In the earliest years of my career at Amazon and Google, I was thrown into rooms with people far, far senior to me and had to figure out not only how to survive but thrive there. At first, it was very intimidating and my instincts told me to keep quiet and out of the way.

Thankfully I had a moment of clarity that told me that if I did that I would miss out on one of the greatest opportunities I might ever have to learn from the best leaders in the world and grow to become like them.

From that moment forward I took a step-by-step approach to building up my confidence, effectiveness, and contributions. Through consistent effort, you too can get yourself a seat at the table and get your voice heard. The mistake I see made most often when leveling up is skipping the foundational steps and trying to assume authority before it has been earned.

Here are five foundational steps to help you earn and own your place at the table:

  • 1. Get in the room.

Go to your manager and make a case for why attending a team, project, or leadership meeting will help you contribute to your current projects at a higher level and with a greater understanding of the team’s goals. You can make a strong case by outlining very specific context and knowledge you hope to gain and how you plan to translate that into new results that benefit not just your work but the team as a whole.

  • 2. Do your homework.

Once you’re invited into the room you need to arrive thoroughly prepared. Ask the meeting organizer for the agenda and briefing documents in advance and study them thoroughly beforehand. Independently research any information, terms, and names that are new to you so you have the context needed to follow along at speed.

  • 3. Share and test your observations.

After the meeting share with your manager your takeaways from the meeting. Outline what you thought went well, suggestions you have for improving the process going forward and ask questions about things you didn’t understand. With her/his feedback you can hone your instincts and ideas before voicing them in front of the larger group. This also allows your manager to become your sponsor and help you get your voice heard in future meetings because they will be confident in the value of your contributions.

  • 4. Speak up.

Once your instincts have been confirmed now is the time to start speaking up. Offer insights, ask clarifying questions, and volunteer to contribute to the group’s work in new ways. Prove your value and earn your keep in the room by volunteering to take on groundwork. Good examples of first projects might be writing briefing documents, doing research and data gathering, or managing the project dashboards. This will build up your expertise while freeing up leadership time and simultaneously help them to see you in a new light as a core part of what makes the team successful and effective.

  • 5. Become the catalyst of results.

Once you have a firm foundation of knowledge and have built up strong relationships of trust within your leadership team, volunteer to own larger parts of key projects, and partner with more experienced managers to learn from their best practices. This is how you get training, build your skills and confidence, and become seen as a leader in your own right. 

This process is not something that happens overnight. You need to consistently show up, work harder than everyone else and prove that you will consistently level up and rise to any challenge.

Most importantly you need to develop a reputation for not out-working but out-caring everyone around you. This is how you become indispensable to your team and able to accelerate your professional growth.