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Most of us wish we weren’t obligated to attend as many meetings. But the opposite can also be disconcerting – being excluded from important meetings.

“Let’s face it, there are times that being left off the invitation list can sting. Intellectually, you may understand the logic, but that’s little consolation when you want to be included,” executive coach Nina Bowman writes in Harvard Business Review.

The first step, she suggests, is to objectively consider whether you really should have been attending:

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  • Are you a decision maker on the topic?
  • Will you or your team be significantly affected by the outcome?
  • Do you bring knowledge or information that others don’t have?
  • Do you bring a unique perspective that isn’t already represented?

Good meeting organizers assess the value of every contributor. What’s yours? Has the organizer not recognized the potential contribution and, if so, how can you convey what is being lost? Or perhaps you aren’t contributing as much as you think or wish? She points to a client who saw himself as a key decision maker, but hadn’t been acting like one. To not step on toes, he had been deferring to his boss on the issue at stake in meetings.

Style can also undercut you. Another client of Ms. Bowman’s, responsible for legal risk, tended to shoot down ideas and take a conservative stance on grey areas, while others at the marketing meetings wanted her to brainstorm with them. If you’ve been left out of a meeting, consider asking your peers for feedback on your style and adjust as necessary.

She looks at common scenarios we can face. In the first, your boss goes to all the meetings and leaves you out. A touchy, tricky situation. This is what she recommends:

  • Set aside time to talk with the boss about your goals and interests.
  • State your interest in attending specific meetings, and ask what you can do to demonstrate your value.
  • Ask if there are projects you can work on that would help you to be included in those meetings.

“If your boss agrees that you should be included in future meetings, don’t be bashful about reminding them about that commitment,” she stresses. Be gentle, and show your value. For example: “Would the upcoming strategy meeting be an appropriate time for me to share the new competitive analysis research I’ve been working on?”

A second situation might be if a peer is intentionally excluding you. Her advice:

  • Set up a time to have a conversation with your peer about the pattern you have noticed.
  • Focus on the business reasons you feel your attendance would help, not your personal interest or feelings.

She says that if you continue to be left out, ask someone who is invited to send an e-mail to the organizer, ideally cc’ing the other participants encouraging your attendance. Again, this should be low-key: “Juan, I think Katie’s perspective in this meeting will be helpful to the group. We should consider adding her to the meeting.” That takes the decision away from the peer who has been leaving you out.

Meetings can bolster your career. So even if you hate them, be careful you aren’t missing important ones.

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Motion is nice – action is better

A big mistake we can make in our careers, according to blogger James Clear, is not understanding the difference between being in motion and taking action. Both can seem comforting in an era where we are told everything must move fast. But there is a crucial difference.

“Motion is when you’re busy doing something, but that task will never produce an outcome by itself. Action, on the other hand, is the type of behaviour that will get you a result,” he writes.

A classic example: If you e-mail 10 new leads and start conversations with them, that’s motion. If they actually buy something and turn into a customer, that’s action.

Obviously, as in that example, motion can have a worthwhile component, putting you in a position to take action, be it by gaining access to a client or by developing strategy and learning. But action must be the goal.

“If motion doesn’t lead to results, why do we do it? Sometimes we do it because we actually need to plan or learn more. But more often than not, we do it because motion allows us to feel like we’re making progress without running the risk of failure,” Mr. Clear says.

“Most of us are experts at avoiding criticism. It doesn’t feel good to fail or to be judged publicly, so we tend to avoid situations where that might happen.”

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Here are two ideas he offers for moving toward more action:

  • Set a schedule for your actions; choose certain days to focus on them.
  • Pick a date when you will shift from motion to action on certain behaviours.

This works with activities that involve a lot of planning, which tends to make it easy to put off action.

More generally, take note of the distinction between motion and action and monitor your own behaviour. He encourages you to ask yourself repeatedly: “Are you doing something? Or are you just preparing to do it? Are you in motion? Or are you taking action?”

Understanding your stress

To understand what triggers your stress, business author Gwen Moran suggests in Fast Company that you think about how you would complete the following statements:

  • It makes me angry when…
  • I don’t like it when people…
  • I feel offended when…
  • I think it’s rude to…
  • It makes me crazy when…
  • If people would only…
  • I get irritated when I come to work and…
  • I get irritated when I come home and…

Quick hits

  • You know about Pareto’s 80/20 principle. Here’s another, Price’s Law:  50 per cent of the work is done by the square root of the total number of people who participate in the work.
  • From tech analyst Mary Meeker’s recently released Internet Trends report: Voice technology is at an inflection point  due to speech recognition hitting 95-per-cent accuracy and the sales explosion of Amazon Echo.
  • Want to pump up interest and attendance at a corporate or industry talk? Futurist Jim Carol reports success with videos customized to the event  with the keynote speaker. In one case his video teaser helped increase attendance by 75 per cent.
  • In job interviews, clearly describe what you did in previous work,  not what the assignment was about. It’s your accomplishment that is key, says blogger Scot Herrick.
  • When a client asks you for a lower price, as soon as you say you’ll ask your manager what you can do, you have lost,  says consultant Anthony Iannarino. You have signalled a discount is possible; disempowered yourself, suggesting you lack power; and you have switched sides in the deal, now negotiating for the customer against your company.

We’ve launched a new weekly Careers newsletter. Sign up today.

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