When a lot is riding on an upcoming meeting or conversation, be prepared. Worrying or fretting won’t help. But effective preparation can help you shape the course of the conversation and may even determine the outcome.
Who are the key people?
If you’re having a conversation with just one or two people, this is pretty obvious. But in a larger meeting, identifying strategic connections, stakeholders and decision makers can be more complex. Take a good look around at who you really need to connect with. These are the people to pay special attention to.
What is important to them?
It’s worth getting to know what’s important to anyone you’re in a serious relationship with, or anyone that you want to influence in a significant way. This is part of developing political intelligence in the workplace.
We all have a wide range of vested interests. We are invested personally, socially, professionally and organizationally in ways that can be complex and not always obvious. These investments can become emotionally loaded and most people will go to great lengths to protect what they feel strongly about. So before an important meeting, find out what is important to the other person or to the key people.
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Pull together what you’ve heard, seen, and learned about the person in the past. You can start by asking yourself what is it that drives or motivates this person? What does this person feel rewarded by? How does he or she react under pressure? What are his/her typical responses to being challenged? This information will help you predict how the person will react and help you avoid walking on a land mine.
Don’t forget to include your intuitive sense about the person, any gut feelings, and any subtle patterns you are aware of. This can often be a hidden treasure of insight and understanding.
Be sure to connect your own information with the bits and pieces of information you have on hand from others. In some cases, you’ll want go to written or digital sources for more information.
Finally, summarize what you have in a few strategic bulleted points that can help you remember what is most important to this specific person and help you remember the uniqueness of that person.
Identify Your Needs & Vested Interests
Don’t forget about you! Go into conversations, meetings, and negotiations knowing what you want and need as well as what you don’t want and don’t need. This will help you define what you hope to accomplish overall as you guide the conversation and influence the outcome. When you are clear about your own personal needs, you put yourself in a better position to make balanced, wise choices that are in your best interest.
Going into important meetings prepared, will help you understand the other players better, guide you in how to show appropriate respect, enable you influence more effectively, and help keep you out of trouble.