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First and Close Encounters In and Out of Season

Posted on February 16, 2007

By Jean Jaworek

I haven’t been getting out much lately.  I’m still enjoying meals with friends and family nights and weekends and the occasional Hollywood blockbuster too but I haven’t been attending a lot of work related meetings.  I haven’t been getting a lot of face time with upper management either.

I’m not being punished—remanded to corporate obscurity for some real or perceived infraction of The Rules—or if so I’m blithely unaware reduced status.  Mostly, I’m not seen grazing break tables or attempting to secure a theater-style seat within PowerPoint squinting distance, because other duties keep me away. 

My work has always been seasonal, punctuated by busy periods where I’m alone or sequestered with one or two others likewise engaged.  At such times I face a PC monitor requiring full work days and undivided attention.  Optional meetings—the kinds that are largely informational are pretty much out of the question.   

So my world rocked a bit recently when another’s scheduled bumped my own.  A corporate executive – a new guy at least to our organization--unexpectedly scheduled a meeting with me.  He’d learned I had some background in an area he was interested in exploring and wanted recognizance from my own lips.  Moi?   Yes.   I felt a little like Dorothy and her cohorts summoned to a face off with Oz, The Great and Powerful.               

Why?  Three reasons: 

1. I wanted to make a favorable impression.  We can’t redo first encounters.  I know it.  You know it, and it is as true now as when Momma done told us so.   
2. I want the boss to be happy. I know any encounter that can influence expectation, even modestly, is one laden with the mojo of opportunity.  The deft hand can shape perceived outcome -- insurance that the sense of corporate well-being will be preserved sometimes regardless of outcome.  To my mind, this is what managing upward is all about albeit on a rather primitive level.   
3. I want to be perceived as on and with it even when I don’t feel I am truly either.  Truthfully, in my meeting off season, I think I lose my macro edge. Swamped by minutia, the big picture fades to a backdrop of vague scenery that fails to inspire because I don’t have time to look at it.  What would I say to the guy?

What to do?

The usual.  Deep breaths to encourage calm.   Glance out any window.  This reveals a sky as unthreatened by imminent collapse as ever.  Follow this by a quick look at the western horizon. There the sun will be slumping in something like no time—a cogent reminder of the need to get on it with it.
Next:  Preparation. Organization of materials.  Production of a typed formal outline including all the absolutely key points highlighted.  Why not?  Attire:  Think of something reasonable to wear but don’t dwell.  Success hinges at your keeping at the task at hand. .Of course most of us know all this but it bears repetition because most of us tend to forget question what should be obvious best practices when spooked or caught off guard. Leave time to buff the shoes. It you look down at your shiny toes just before entering a meeting particularly an important one, you might catch the glow. 
Most importantly, do not procrastinate or lose confidence.  If you don’t succumb to one or the other, you know you are likely to pull through.  I did and when I left the new guy he smiled, and shook my hand like he meant it.   


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