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Sometimes I join some meetings where everyone is a manager, like department managers to discuss a problem or a situation which needs the joined effort of multiple departments. Anyway I am no manager but I join it because my manager invites me since I am from the field.

Now sometimes managers do not know what is really going on and they really give silly solutions because they care about expenses and other stuff while people on the field like me knows it all. I tried to talk in these meetings and reply to some of them or even correct them in a nice way, they do not accept that very well, other times I just stayed there and did not talk unless they ask and also they thought I should have talked when I had the chance and they blamed later for not giving them the correct image of what's going on.

This seems frustrating because I do not have a problem in either cases but I really love my job and I want to be effective but at the same time I do not want a headache or stupid advice from my manager when he tells me stuff like "you should have not said that or this".

How to handle this kind of meetings?

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    "...really give silly solutions because they care about expenses and other stuff". There is a word for a company that doesn't care about expenses. The word is 'bankrupt'. – DJClayworth May 3 '13 at 13:18
  • IMHO, if you dont take necessary steps, and if any of their decisions go haywire, be ready to be a part of flack, for you didn't speak when you could see the wrong. – happybuddha May 3 '13 at 13:22
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    Ask your manager why you're being included if your experience and/or expertise and/or advice is going to be blown off and ignored. – acolyte May 3 '13 at 14:00
  • @DJClayworth not really, I have seen a problem which needed three different solutions from the company before it is solved, the first two tries cost less that's why they chose it, at the end they did the right "expensive" thing... so basically if they did the correct expensive solution from the beginning they would have saved money.. but instead they wanted to go for the cheap solutions but didn't work! – user8959 May 3 '13 at 17:43
  • @DJClayworth That's how the BP Oil Spill happened. – Jack Mar 28 '15 at 6:17
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I think the best approach you could take here is to talk to your manager, just you and him.

Build an understanding

It's clear that your manager is sometimes giving you conflicting advice on what to do, so what you might find useful is to have a sit down meeting with your manager and discuss what your role in these meetings are.

What are you supposed to contribute? How are you supposed to contribute? When are you supposed to contribute? When are you supposed to leave it to your manager?

Clarify Beforehand

A meeting 5- 10 minutes before the actual meeting can give you and your manager a chance to discuss between just yourselves. This helps bring you both on the same page so that one of you isn't saying one thing, whilst the other is saying another thing.

This also gives you a chance to clear up any confusion between you and your manager which can aid him too.

During the meeting

During the meeting you should keep your contributions short and simple. Offload only the information they need to know in simple terms, cut out as much techno speak as you can.

They already have decisions to make so may as well give the information to them simply enough to understand.

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    +1 - Always know what your boss's agenda is and make sure you don't say anything that will end up contradicting the strategy. And if you haven't thought out a solutionw well enough to make it short and simple, don't say anything until you do. – user8365 May 3 '13 at 11:30
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    The only thing I would add is "listen much more than you talk". – DJClayworth May 3 '13 at 13:19
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    +1 for clarifying beforehand. As a non-manager, sometimes I have been expected to direct meetings towards my manager's goals, and sometimes I have been expected to only speak if my manager asks me the question. – Matt May 3 '13 at 14:09
  • Clarifying beforehand - sounds like the military where we'd have meetings before the meeting so that we knew what would be expected of us. (In a situation where very junior people were going to be meeting with the most senior people on the base.) – Mark Allen May 3 '13 at 22:04
  • @MarkAllen you'll be surprised how much military is in there, with all these secret signals. Our marketing pro taught me when preparing to meetings we participated, "gnat if either of us interrupts what other is saying with to put it another way..., this is a signal: shut up immediately! you're about to make a big mistake, let me correct this." Go figure... – gnat May 4 '13 at 23:03
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Been there done that. Well you should try to explain the problem in their terms. You should start with something they care about, in your case the costs. Starting from them with basic examples from real world you should try a scenery that would help them understand what you are talking. You should skip the technical details whenever possible, I know I kind of get too much in detail when I try to do this.

If you explain the situation good enough with arguments and very strong will you may be able to steer the discussion to your solution. But you have to do this gradually and don't force them, maybe it's better just to present the facts and let them take the decision.

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How to handle this kind of meetings?

If you want to just "get by" without looking like a fool, you need to talk to your manager, figure out why you are there, and then do that, and nothing more.

Other answers cover this pretty well and it's good advice to not sink your career and get by in such meetings.


How to handle this kind of meetings? (and use them as effective career tools)?

Consider seeing this meeting as a huge opportunity for your career. The way managers perceive you and having exposure to them is more important than your actual abilities if you value career advancement.

You have a unique opportunity to create an image, either good or bad, for a lot of managers.

Do:

  • Show up prepared
    • Talk with your boss ahead of time
    • Read the agenda
    • If those don't give you a perfect understanding why you are there, consider asking the meeting organizer if there is any prep work you need to do/read
  • Take notes during the meeting - on paper
  • Speak slowly
  • Look at people when they talk
  • Actively listen
  • Sit with good posture
  • Participate in any pre-meeting conversation
  • Introduce yourself (before the meeting at least)
  • Greet people by name
  • Have a positive attitude

Don't:

  • Say dumb things without thinking
  • Type on your computer
  • Do anything on this list
  • Also, it is possible that some concerns could be addressed after the meeting by speaking with the manager. It's not a "speak now or forever hold your peace" like a wedding. – Amy Blankenship May 3 '13 at 22:39
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I think the best solution is to develop a better understanding with your manager. The worst thing that can happen in this type of meeting is if you provide different information compared to your manager, or if your manager does not back you up on your comments. The best way to ensure that this doesn't happen is to make sure that you are on the same page as your manager on issues that relate to your area of expertise and knowledge. Otherwise, it is probably better to not participate in these types of meetings and leave the responsibility to the manager (which is partly what they are there for).

  • +1 on leaving it to the manager; if he's less competent than the OP, well that's Peter's Principle in work... – Deer Hunter May 3 '13 at 8:38
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The biggest thing that helped me with this kind of problem when you are the technical resource communicating with non-technical managers is to never state that something is impossible. Just state the challenges that a particular direction may bring and how they might be solved. Balance optimism and a can-do attitude with reality and facts.

Communicate facts and clarify misunderstandings. It sounds as if they don't want a technical person that talks on their level, they want you there to be merely an advisor so they don't want your opinion unless they ask for it, but they do want you to bring up facts, clarifications or corrections when they misunderstand the reality of the situation. Other than that you don't need to be directly engaged in the decision making process. It is their decision to make together because after all they will pay the price if they make the wrong one.

  • It is too easy to put blame on the shoulders of the OP. Ideally, the OP's supervisor would have been competent enough not to require backing from the experts... – Deer Hunter May 3 '13 at 12:16
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    @DeerHunter You don't work in the corporate world do you? :) – maple_shaft May 3 '13 at 12:21
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    Call me Pollyanna... – Deer Hunter May 3 '13 at 12:29
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Rule 1: Do not make your manager look bad

The easiest way to do this is to point out a flaw in your area, or a coworker. Any comment or statement that points out a deficiency in your group or the company makes your manager look bad. If you are asked a question directly that the true answer will make your manager look bad, then say "I will look into it and get back to you." Then make sure your manager approves of the response before you send it out.

Rule 2: Keep your mouth shut as much as possible.

You are there presumably to facilitate a quick answer to questions that come up in the meeting that cover your area of expertise. Unless you are asked a question directly, it is better to pass a note to your manager with the information you think needs imparted, and let him pass on that information, or ask you to. If you have questions about some requirements as the discussion wraps up say that you have some question on the topic and will send them in an email. If the group feels the need to get it out now they will ask you to elaborate. Otherwise do it over email.

Rule 3: Do not volunteer for extra work, or complain about work assigned in the meeting.

If you volunteer for work in a meeting with your manager it can look bad on them. You do not want to make your manager look bad. Wait until after the meeting and volunteer or request the assignment from your manager if you feel the need. If a task gets assigned to you in the meeting accept the task and move on. If you have a problem with it (like not sure what to do) talk to your manager after the meeting. They can either get the task assigned or get you connected with the resources you need to complete the task.

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If you've been invited to a meeting where everyone in the room is a manager, then you're likely there because you have a lot to contribute. Therefore, if an issue arises which you're an expert on, you should definitely speak up and contribute to the discussion.

Although you're in a room with managers, you're also in a room full of people who are all there to solve a problem. Therefore, think of yourself as a problem solver as well.

There may be times when, by keeping silent, the group has lost what could have been a valuable contribution from you, while at other times you've spoken and proposed what may be a not-so-hot idea. In the latter case, not much has been lost. Ideas that aren't good or that aren't ready to be implemented today are generally just forgotten. Your managers should appreciate the times when you've helped solve a problem, and even bad ideas show you're trying to problem solve.

The area where you may need to be careful is in terms of how you talk to these people. Respect should go both ways. Your managers should treat you with respect in these meetings, and you should treat them with respect as well. If a manager poses a solution that you have concerns about, focus not on the ways the idea is bad. Instead, focus on ideas that solve the problem. In other words, as others have said, don't make anyone look bad, regardless of whether they're a coworker in your department or another manager.

Leadership doesn't require titles, and if you can communicate on the same level with your managers, you'll highlight your leadership, problem solving, and relationship building skills, which may help you move into positions of more responsibility.

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