How to Own Your Seat in the Boardroom!

How to Own Your Seat in the Boardroom!

One of the challenges we face in our leadership journey is stepping into new situations with confidence. I can remember that as a Managing Partner, in one of my final roles in the marketing world, I would regularly have to walk into board meetings and hold my own. I can still remember that gut-churning feeling as I prepared to walk in the doors. No one had trained me on how to handle these situations. Budgets were at stake, my ability to ‘sell the story’ and influence was critical, and I needed to be able to hold my own confidently when questioned. I really needed to be able to own my seat in that room but initially, I was terrified! 

So why is the boardroom so scary for so many of us? 

In my experience, there can be many different stakeholders present who all have different agendas or outcomes and often more years on the job than you! It can be a complex dynamic and a stressful situation. In my experience and, in working with 100s of leaders to build their confidence I know the nerves and anxiety is real and this pressure can start creeping up days beforehand. The team feels it, your loved ones feel it and you know you are perhaps not being your best self. On the day it can leave you running on adrenaline in the room and leave you emotionally and energetically depleted as you walk out the door. It can be exhausting and unsustainable for you and disruptive for others if we don’t get a handle on it. Let me actually reframe that and I’m going to channel the marketing great Seth Godin here who reflected on imposter syndrome as something we will never get rid of instead, we learn to dance with it. I think that’s probably the same here less handling more dancing and here’s how to start doing that... 

The 3 keys to starting to build your confidence and own your seat at the table 

So how do we stop these stressful situations from negatively impacting what’s going on for you inside and outside of the office? The great news is that it’s possible to develop the skills that are going to help you navigate this situation like the true leader you are. 

1. Learn to master your state. 

Understand that you are a human being and feeling nervous is a natural response! The fear and worry come from our primal threat response. When we don’t know or understand well the people or dynamics in a room there’s a chance we might not belong. That we could be cast out or thrown under a bus! Hence our threat response goes off, our amygdala is hi-jacked and our rational brain gets knocked off-line. When we are in this state it can be hard to think clearly or portray ease or confidence. The whole game is to know this is completely normal and to support ourselves accordingly. Whether that’s taking a few deeper-than-normal breaths or naming your fears in your mind so that they dissipate, becoming more confident in ourselves requires us to get comfortable with ourselves. 

2. Start to own your point of view 

Showing up as a leader begins well before you walk into any room. It’s one thing to be seen as a leader among your team, it’s another to be known as a leader of your organization or in your industry. In order for others beyond your team to view you as the leader you are, like it or not, you need to be visible. That requires you to realize you wouldn't be where you are if you didn’t know a few things. You need to take that confidence you have directing the team and sharing your wisdom with those closest to you and use that to start harnessing your opinion and thinking at the next level. When we start to realize that we have a unique point of view that we could be contributing more broadly, it starts to build our confidence to show up in any room. 

3. Master Communication and emotional intelligence 

The key to navigating complex and diverse stakeholder relations is by mastering the skill of communication. It’s not only about being able to communicate outcomes, it’s about being able to assert influence over others. It’s about being curious and deeply understanding the needs and motivations of others to find the best way forward together. Becoming a masterful and influential communicator will make any of these stakeholder situations much easier to handle. It will put an end to the sleepless nights and the pre-meeting anxiety. 

Take a moment to just tune into these 3 keys above and ask yourself, 

‘Which one of these 3-keys is missing for me?’  

Or ‘If I was to focus on just one of these areas, which one could unlock my ability to own my seat at the boardroom table?’ 

Armed with this knowledge, start to seek out ways to develop these skills or find mentors who can help, and I promise you, those boardroom meetings will start to become easier…. 

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Geoffrey Nevine — IT Services and IT Consulting

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