Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Seat at the Grownups' Table

Many of us can remember Thanksgiving dinner in an extended family setting where those of us who were very young were sent to eat at the kids' table—usually a folding table set up just for the purpose. When we were "old enough" we were able to move up to the grownups' table. It was and is a rite of passage. For those of us who are the youngest sibling, this rite was even more important.

In business, a "seat at the table" means that your department or division or function gets to participate in decision-making processes. Your people get to be in the room when decisions are at least discussed if not made.

When there are business meetings in your organization, are there people who sit at the kids' table? Perhaps they are not taken seriously, or perhaps they don't care enough to be paying full attention. In the worst case, they are people who do care, who desperately want to be part of decisions, to be asked questions, to participate.

When you call a meeting to start a new project, are some of the people in the room relegated to the kids' table? Perhaps unwittingly, are you avoiding their opinions and perspectives?

  • Make sure that all stakeholders are represented at your meeting
  • Go around the table completely and give everyone an opportunity for input
  • Listen carefully for those unexpected gems that can help you get things done

The best insights often come from unexpected places. Don't forget to tap the minds at the kids' table. And don't forget about giving them a rite of passage to full citizenship within the family of your business.

Give it some thought.


  1. I've intentionally sat at the "kid's table" just to be sure I'm hearing everyone. If you're having trouble drawing them out in the meeting, take the time to meet with them privately. Showing them respect by seeking out their opinion can change the perspective of the entire team.


  2. Thanks for your comment, Leslie. Good advice for all of us - to draw out those who don't easily state their case, and let it contribute to the team dynamic.