Show Notes Episode 7: Meetings & the Power of the CAPE

Disclaimer: Below are my show notes. These are notes, not a transcription, and they may have the grammatical accuracy of the roughest draf of a term paper.

Hey There, and welcome to the Heroik Hour, the podcast where we discuss and bring together Technology Leadership and Culture giving you a little Heroik TLC to get mission ready for life. Thanks for joining us on episode lucky number 7.

And today, I’m going to talk about how to Bring your own bravery and bring your own X factor to confidently rock the meeting room to ensure your ideas get a fair shake. Specifically, I’m going to get you mission ready to confidently tell truth to power, whether it’s your boss or mob, and confront address the bias and bigotry that can sabotage your efforts. Sounds pretty badass right? It is.

Before we get into it – I want to share this. This Podcast is sponsored by my company Heroik Media – and I’m basically give you the 10 course taste-test of some strategical and tactical nuggets, insights and lessons learned from our professional engagements. And if you like what you hear, if you align with our culture, and you’re looking to build a growth engine and get some intrapreneurship initiatives going inside your organization, or just need to figure out new ways to light a fire under the asses of your team, please check us out at getheroik.com and to impress your boss or HR manager, have them check out our corporate HQ at Heroik.org that’s HEROIK.org – but if you want to see our articles, and the fun stuff go to getheroik.com – Heroik.org to impress your boss so I can come speak at your company and getheroik.com if you already work at a fun place and want to make it even better.

Okay ? Alright, without further ado – Let’s get started.

I am going to get you mission ready to tell truth to power, and become a more brave and confident army of one and give you an unfair advantage in the battle against bad ideas and bigotry. Sounds pretty badass right? It is. Let’s get started.

Inevitably, at some if not many points in your career, it’s going to happen, you’ll go into a meeting to pitch an idea, a project, something you care about and believe could be a major value ad and win for the organization. And you’ll walk in, outnumbered and outgunned and dealing with bigotry and prejudice in some form or another.

There’s all kinds of bigotry out there.

There are the obvious kinds that discriminate against, ethnicity, gender, and culture. And these are generally not tolerated anymore and limited to more subdued, subtle and indirect illustrations. You’ll usually see these ones coming.

There are also forms of bigotry that are unique to the organization.  These closed mindsets are often tolerated, enabled, if not openly endorsed. Here are a few examples of that.

  • People from sales hate the people from marketing.
  • Marketing hates sales.
  • And everyone hates management.
  • Hardware teams hate the software engineers, because the software teams snub their nose at hardware teams.
  • Ideas from the independent contractor teams are dismissed and they are treated like second class corporate citizens because they’re unofficial or temporary.
  • Business units hate each other and feel they compete

Anything that is causing people to categorically dismiss the opinions of others and hating them for disagreeing with them, is usually bigotry in action. Dismissing your ideas because you like to listen to ColdPlay is an example of Bigotry.  Bigotry of course extends beyond the silos, and you run into blatant and subtle forms of bigotry towards the young, the old, the gay the straight and so on. And this type of dysfunctional culture happens everyday at the top businesses around the globe.

And probably, the more common form of bigotry you’ll run into throughout your career, or maybe even have to confront within yourself, that is less talked about is agism. In the workplace, ideas are dismissed or given weighted value because of the person’s age. The generation wars are still alive and well.  There’s an unspoken bias that assumes the older you are the wiser you are. And now, in many, younger tech startups, the exact opposite is happening, where older people are being discriminated against because it’s difficult to teach old dogs new tricks right?

Bigotry expresses itself in many forms.

So before to get you prepared to handle the business of effective meetings

Remember to Wear your CAPE. This is acronym and mindfulness reminder for your Character, Alignment, Purpose and Energy.

Character

  • Bring your own bravery. Be brave enough for you to be yourself. Tell yourself you are and you will. This requires you to know yourself, know your values, what you believe in, and why, and also know your valued behaviors the actions you take and are willing to take to stay true to who you are.
  • This also requires a degree of authenticity -being comfortable with who you are where, you are with what you have, aware and appreciative of your strengths and weaknesses, in equal measure. This is as true for the person as it is the brand and culture of the organization.

Alignment

  • Ensure that your ideas are freaking wicked smart and well thought through to begin with. I’m assuming you’re a subject matter expert and you know your shit. Not everyone who disagrees with you is a bigot, and if you label people that way, you’re the bigot. Be sure your ideas are good and aligned with the goals of the project and company in the first place.

Purpose

  • Remember your co-workers even in the worst case scenario are temporary enemies and more long term neighbors and friends. You share a common goal that brings you together that you need to solve or address. That is your purpose. So though you need to prepare for debate, you need to realize that the communication is ultimately a negotiation, and it is often in alignment with the goal to keep everyone at the table communicating, respectfully and effectively. This doesn’t mean putting up with bullshit or getting walked on, you can remember purpose and remind others to re-align to the shared purpose of the meeting you’re about to enter.

Energy

  • You can win with energy alone. Being enthusiastic and passionate about your ideas is essential. It’s a force multiplier. If you cannot get excited or enthusiastic about your ideas, project, plan or solution, then you can get excited about the collaboration or the act of brainstorming with your peers to develop a great one together.
  • If you show up enthusiastic, the Eeyore’s of the room who try to deflate that energy will look like jack-asses. This gives you a leg up. You can also be enthusiastically opposed to an idea, but again you better be wicked smart, have the facts and reasons on your side. The point is, remember to bring the energy.

These 4 things make your CAPE, Character, Alignment Purpose and Energy. At Heroik we talk about this concept whether we’re building personal brands and products or cultures and CAPE’s for the entire organization.

Here’s another thing before you go into the meeting.  Be your own X- Factor, by packing a parachute a backup plan, a best alternative if the thing you want doesn’t happen.

This is a clear, specific plan not a general idea. People make the mistake of thinking a backup plan is like, “Well if it doesn’t workout I’ll magically get a job elsewhere.” That’s not a plan. That’s a plan to defer planning until later. That’s like saying if I jump out of the plane, I’ll figure out how to make a parachute as I fall out of the sky. That’s not realistic. A well thought, thorough backup plan will give far more confidence in the room, because you know exactly what you’ll do if the meeting doesn’t go the way you want it to. This gives you the ability and power of walking away unscathed. Go ahead push the button blow a hole in the plane, I’ve got a parachute do you. This gives you super-powers in any negotiation and the flexibility to be unpredictable and seemingly crazy. You have a plan if you have to walk away and the chances are  This liberates you to be passionate, tenacious, accurate, and respectful.

Now with great power comes great responsibility. This isn’t a license to be a prick. It’s a license to not be a coward. It’s a license to be measured and respectful free from the fear of being cornered or to face some horrible unknown. This is a license for you to be the best version, the Heroik version of yourself in the meeting room.

Those are all internal personal things you can do, there’s also some external environmental stewardship you need to be doing to increase your success in the meeting room and maximizing the vibrancy of the discussion

 

  • Remember the Heroik Golden Rule – That Golden Rule states “cultivate that which serves you and hit the eject button on that which does not.” This means be a steward of the values and behaviors that you find empowering and effective. Be a steward of the culture you want to live work and play in, and this means letting the world know, that you’re willing to throw down against bigotry and stupidity. And it also means taking ownership of your part to build and embody the culture you want in the workplace.

 

  • Take time to challenge your assumptions, stereotypes, and possible bigotries. This is what it means to know yourself and be authentic. Challenge your own ideas so you can make better decisions about the filters and blinders you operate with on your day to day.
  • Kill personal attacks – make them unacceptable, make bigotry and stupidity unacceptable, and encourage debate and discussion. Debate is not the enemy. Hurt feelings are not the problem. Debate is about comparing and contrasting ideas, allowing them to compete to discover what the best path is. Feelings still get hurt in debate. People are passionate. There will be tears, but bad ideas deserve to die, good ideas deserve to die and great ideas deserve to get launched. Welcome to the big leagues.
  • Don’t go into the room if you expect more than this. I don’t care if you’re working in a nonprofit – if you’re not weeding out the bad and mediocre initiatives you’re wasting resources.

You got your CAPE on and you’ve packed your parachute, and you’ve proactively chased all the snakes from the area – now you’re ready for the meeting.

You walk in, the discussion starts,  There are more of them, or your boss is in the room. And as the discussion begins, somebody starts to take a big dump all over your idea but not because of anything to do with your pitch, idea or the case you make for it, but because you’re the one doing the pitching. You may see this coming, and see people across the table lickin their lips, looking at you like a piece of fresh meat in prison ward. And then someone throws the first punch at you and hits you in the nose.

What happens when they start attacking you personally and not the merits of your idea? How do you respectfully navigate that moment and still seize the day?

You can run from the fight and suffer a miserable existence, or show some grit and earn respect of those in the room.

I recommend starting softly:

  • 1. Remember you were invited into the room. Then remind the room of why. If you’re the outside talent, point out the need for outside talent. If they had it all figured out and a truly great plan, there would be no need for a discussion at all. Remind the room, everyone is there because of a common goal, and a common need, and you’re respected, valued member.
  • 2. Point out and say how ad hominem attacks do not address the merits of your ideas and they are a distraction from the mission, goal and reason you’re meeting. Say this loud and proud.
  • 3. Beat the drum of the big goal and mission. Personal attacks are toxic symptoms of a dysfunctional team. SAY IT.  Tell the group, not the person, that personal attacks are a form of mission drift. And just add the word, “Respectfully, I’d like to keep us mission focused and on target.” this implies their behavior was out of alignment with the goals.

Practice these. Memorize them, edit them, make them your own. These are as soft as they get.  They will feel unnatural, and uncomfortable if you are unfamiliar with standing up for yourself and the espoused culture of the organization.

These are the soft, yet firm first defenses against personal attacks. We ain’t done yet, all dogs bark right? Their first attempt and a soft, measured response, might not dissuade them from attempting to make things personal. So you continue on with the meeting, you’re going through the features, benefits, possibilities, strengths and weaknesses, and then someone says “Yeah but you like ColdPlay” – and you have to resist the urge to say “yeah I like ColdPlay I listen to Yellow while making love to yo momma. She likes it to? Do you have a problem with your mom being happy?” Before you fall for their trap, elevate things in a respectful way.

Without missing a beat – without even framing the argument “The purpose and core goal of this meeting is to  X…” “Would care to tell me how me liking ColdPlay helps us get this done, or has bearing or value in the discussion beyond distraction?” – You have now called out the behavior as a distraction.

You can also give them the cold water response. Look them in the eye, smile confidently, hold the group in silence and make sure there’s a pause so people process what was just said.  – Then move on to your very next point.

You have now graciously held your sacred ground, without adding to distraction, but ensuring it’s highlighted without further engagement.

The meeting goes on and then someone says something like “ I can see how this might impress or resonate with a millennial mind…but,” right there – that’s a below the belt, unprofessional, and all too common agist move.

Here comes the knock out. “ Are we designing a solution for a time point where my views and ideas are somehow irrelevant? Does the company have plans to build a time machine, to alter the marketplace conditions that we’re here to address together?” Or are we trying to come together to build a growth engine for the Digital Age, that I’m literate in and others find a hard time adjusting to?”

– This is a fundamental party foul. And the only way you set a tone to prevent it from happening is if someone stops the party, you hear the record scratch/stop sound, and you call out the personal attack and lay some positive guilt on them.  I don’t care if it was your boss, or your mom, either your ideas are good based on their merit or their not. But judging you for being young, black, brown, white, woman, man, alien or other, usually has no role in the discussion. And after you’ve made multiple attempts to keep things focused, the bigot comes out, it is your duty to defend your boundaries. You’ve done a good job to put up fences, you sent the growling dog as a warning, but it all means absolutely nothing if you’re unwilling to fight to enforce those boundaries.

Remember to wear your CAPE, Character, Alignment Purpose and Energy.

Pack a parachute or a backup plan for the best alternative for when things go south. Be respectful, firm and direct. Assert your boundary, shift the focus onto goals, alignment and merits of the ideas, and if that doesn’t work take them to the woodshed in the environment where the bigotry happens.

This is how you rock the meeting room, earn respect, and ensure your ideas get fair consideration.  And that’s just about all I’ve got for you today, if you like this episode please write us a review, subscribe to the podcast, and check out our site at Get Heroik.com That’s Heroik spelled with a K as in kick ass not a c, spell it like a swedish rock band. Speaking of let’s rock out – I’ll catch you on the next episode