Dr. Shirley Davis

“The Seat”–Strategies for How to Get it, Keep it, and Create One for Others

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Categories: Articles and Publications, Personal

A 3 minute read

Whether it’s trying to get it at the C-Suite table, trying to get your foot in the door of your dream job, trying to make a sale with a client, or asking for a promotion or a raise, getting ‘The Seat’ is one of the biggest challenges we face in our career progression. It’s illusive, it’s coveted, it’s competitive, and it’s tough to get. I’ve keynoted on it, conducted webinars and seminars about it, and written numerous articles on it for years, and yet it still remains a seat that only a select few attain. 

As a success and life coach and a 30 year HR veteran,  I’ve been asked by people from all walks of life and from various stages and ages including women, people of color, Millennials, Generation Xers, Human Resources professionals, military veterans, salespeople, insurance agents, consultants, and myriad others for strategies and tips on how to get a seat at the table. And while many are finding that they have a title such as Director, Head, Senior, Lead, and Chief, they are faced with the reality that it doesn’t necessarily translate into positional authority where they are sought out as key contributors when important decisions are being made, or that they have an open invitation to occupy The Seat on an ongoing basis. This is particularly common among people from an under-represented or minority group in the organization.

Getting access to The Seat means cracking the code of the unwritten rules that provide access, opportunity, and success inside the company.  It’s a seat of leadership at the table of decision makers within the organization, from the C-Suite level down to the departmental level. Getting a seat at the table is about being SEEN and HEARD; being heard and making a difference. It’s about being visible in the organization and being known by the key players. It’s about relationships–key relationships with the right people in the organization at the right time. And it’s not just WHAT you know (expertise is important), it’s WHO you know, AND what they know about you. It’s about having a BRAND that is reputable, credible, and impactful. But why is it that even if you have all of these qualities and have demonstrated the expertise and the performance, that you still can’t seem to get The Seat. Is it the company culture? Is it your direct supervisor? Is it senior leadership? Is it YOU?

If you don’t have The Seat and you aspire to get it, read further. If you already have a seat and want to keep it, read further. If you have a seat and have created value while at the table, please share with our readers what strategies you used to be successful while occupying seat. And even so, share some of the realities, the pains, and the obstacles you had to overcome to attain The Seat.

Below, I’ve listed 12 strategies that tend to be most common among those of us who have achieved a seat at the table. I would love to hear your thoughts and additional tips that worked for you. Share them in the comments section below.

 12 Strategies for Getting and Keeping The Seat

  1. Earn it. Don’t just expect to get invited.
  2. Know your organization’s business.
  3. Know your leaders.
  4. Be/become an SME.
  5. Demonstrate strong leadership skills.
  6. Get some quick wins. Measure outcomes and goal achievement, not work processes.
  7. Be a partner/collaborator across the organization; set others up for success.
  8. Demonstrate courage to speak up on the tough issues.
  9. Think innovatively, strategically, and futuristically.
  10. Secure a champion/sponsor for your efforts.
  11. Get out of the office. Your seat may not be at the boardroom or conference room table.
  12. Operate your office like a business owner.

Coming later this spring, I will be releasing my new book, “The Seat” in which I will go into much more detail about each of the strategies listed above. But I will get more personal. I will chronicle my journey to the executive seat as a woman, a person of color, a single mom, and as an HR and D & I professional, and a Sales executive. It was a road wrought with disappointments, setbacks, haters, failures, being marginalized, unjustifiably criticized, and held to a different standard. Yet, it is a story of perseverance, making sacrifices, compromises, right decisions, staying focused, becoming fearless, and being determined to succeed in spite of the obstacles. I’ll detail the 12 strategies and steps that I took to not only get The Seat, but to find my voice, and own my power while I occupied it. Stay tuned for pre-order announcements and the release of The Seat later this spring.