Collaborative sessions are an opportunity to stand out in a crowd.

use3No matter what business you are in, whether you work for a large company or a small one, whether you’re a trainee or on a management fast track, there’s a good chance you’ll be invited to participate in many group collaboration discussions during your career. They may be impromptu meetings or planned off-sites called brainstorming or ideation sessions, groupthinks or brain dumps. They can be focused on team building, training, strategic planning, or new product development, either led by an outside facilitator or someone in your organization.

But whatever you call them, whoever leads them, however they are structured, whether they include ten people or one hundred, these often informal get-togethers represent an opportunity to stand out and be recognized for your thinking. Or not. Today, most companies are embracing collaboration as a way to break down walls, solve problems and get to ideas faster. A collaborative culture can help bring critical issues to the surface and get everyone on the same page. While some of these ideation sessions may lead to breakthroughs, most just provide a forum for a productive interchange, supported by coffee and donuts, or sandwiches, depending on the time of day.

But ‘just showing up’ to these get-togethers is a missed opportunity. You should arrive focused and prepared in order to stand out and make an impact, without looking like you are trying to do so. Not easy given the democratic nature of a group session. Here are just a few tips on how to achieve this:

1. Have some ideas in your pocket. Prepare as much as possible beforehand by developing some ideas prior to the session. Be ready to bring them up at the right time in the discussion in an impromptu way, hopefully before someone else does.

2. Hold back before speaking. Your goal should not be just to speak up but to say something meaningful. Your impact can often be enhanced by listening to the course of the conversation and waiting for the right time to inject the most powerful insight. The right idea at the right time can change the course of the entire session.

3. Elevate someone else. Recognize someone else’s comment and build on it. Be positive. If you are tempted to say, “Yeah, but…” change it to a “Yeah, and…” Even if an answer seems obvious to you, making an effort to get others to bring it to the surface can enhance your image as a team player and a leader.

4. Keep your edge. It is easy to relax in a group setting but you resist the temptation to do so. Stay focused and maintain a ‘quiet intensity’ as you wait for an opening to provide an insight, idea or perspective that could be game changing.

While some may feel it is counterintuitive, approaching collaborative sessions as an opportunity to stand out and make an individual impact can increase your recognition within your organization and  help to accelerate your career.


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