There is one topic that comes up again and again that I'd like to dig into. Here's what my clients say:

“What do I say if I'm asked to make a decision in a meeting and need more time?”

“I can't think on my feet in meetings – I'm asked for my opinion and am not sure what to say. I need time to process.”

“It seems like the execs I work with are able to come up with such great ideas and opinions on the spot. Mine just don't come out as polished.”

Do any of these resonate? If yes, this newsletter is for you. I'll be talking all about how you can get better at ‘thinking on your feet' in meetings. And here's the key thing – the work required to be good at this all happens outside of the meeting!

People aren't really thinking on their feet

We need to dispel the myth that great leaders are somehow naturally great at thinking on their feet. It may look that way, but it's rarely the case! So why does it look that way?

These leaders already have a bank of ideas, thoughts, and frameworks in their heads. What you see happening in the meeting is simply connecting the dots – recognizing that this is the right time and place to share a particular idea. Very, very rarely is that idea being synthesized from scratch, I promise you.

Which leads to the question – how do I do this too?

There are 4 different ways you can develop this skill, and they are all within your control. Let's dig in.

1. Unsure what to say – Build your expertise

If you've noticed that more senior and experienced leaders tend to be better at coming up with ideas on the fly in a meeting, this isn't a coincidence! They have years and even decades of experience to draw on. So how can you fast-track this for yourself?

Here are a few things you can do:

  • Read – when you read business books you learn credible frameworks you can apply
  • Reflect – make a habit of reflecting when things go wrong, or well, so you understand how what to do next time
  • Courses / memberships – an MBA may help, but you don't have to make that type of investment. Consider digital courses, peer groups, or communities where you can learn from others

2. Unsure what to say – Prioritize deep work

I know, I sound like a broken record because I always talk about how valuable this is. But it's because it is! This is time you can spend asking yourself powerful questions about the business, the biggest challenges, and what needs to happen to solve them.

It's also time you can spend digging into metrics to ensure you truly understand the insights behind the metrics. Ie. not just the what but the why.

During this time you'll come up with new insights and ideas – the types of things you may decide to share in a relevant meeting.

3. Not saying it effectively – Socialize ideas

If part of your challenge in sharing ideas effectively in meetings is that you come across as scattered or your ideas don't sound well thought through, this may be because the first time you're sharing this idea is in the meeting itself. This is never a good idea!

Instead, as you come up with great insights and ideas for how things can be better, socialize them with your peers and other leaders. Listen to how they respond. Asking lots of questions? Maybe you haven't been clear enough. Raising concerns? Maybe you need to consider how your idea will impact the broader organization.

This is a great practice because once you speak up in a meeting, your idea will sound more polished and as a bonus, if your colleagues are in that same meeting, they may speak up and support you.

4. Not saying it effectively – Take time to write

Here's a habit I haven't spoken about a lot, but has been completely game-changing for me, and that is writing. A regular writing habit can be great for all kinds of reasons, but when it comes to formulating ideas, it's particularly impactful, because as you write things out, you will automatically gain clarity into your own thoughts and how to share them.

The next time you come up with an insight, take a few minutes to write out what it is, how you came to it, and how you believe you can use it to impact the business. If the first draft isn't great, no worries. Try again tomorrow.

The more you write, the better you'll be at articulating your thoughts and ideas, and this will translate to meetings.

So there you have it – 4 strategies to get better at thinking on your feet in meetings and they are all things you can start doing right away!

Finally, if you're asked to weigh in on something or make a decision in a meeting and you really aren't ready, have a phrase ready in your back pocket that you can use, like this one:

“I'd be happy to share my perspective and recommendation for moving forward. Given the importance of this decision, I'd like to give it the attention it deserves. Let's circle back tomorrow and I can provide my direction at that time.”

Come up with a couple of these so that when you're faced with a situation like this, you can respond without losing your composure. A little prep can be the difference between being perceived as scattered and unprepared or thoughtful and intentional.

Until next time friends… ✌️💜