How to Be Insightful

In a meeting, you’ll notice the some people’s ideas automatically get taken seriously while others do not.

This dynamic occurs due to two reasons — one obvious, one less so.

First, some people come up with bad ideas — ideas that are impractical, logically incorrect, or deeply flawed.

These ideas should legitimately be discounted.

But, sometimes very sound ideas get dismissed.

Why does this happen?

This leads us to the second reason why even sound ideas get dismissed.

It has to do with WHO is conveying the idea, as opposed to the merit of the idea itself.

In an ideal world, you would be taken seriously at all times. Your idea would be judged purely on its merits.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world.

We live in a world where your gravitas, or executive presence, determines whether you will get taken seriously or not.

It’s not especially fair, but it is quite true.

There are dozens of ways to improve your gravitas.

Here’s one simple way:

Ask insightful questions that nobody else thinks to ask, but everyone immediately thinks, “Oh, that’s a good question” after hearing you ask.

Here’s how you ask more insightful questions in a meeting:

1) Do your homework on the meeting topic.

If someone sends out some documents to be discussed in the meeting, don’t just skim them.

Don’t just read them to comprehend what the writer is saying.

Study them carefully while using your sharpest critical reasoning skills.

(This is one of my big secrets. I don’t read. I analyze.)

Insights don’t just magically fall from the sky. They come from work. Do. The. Work.

2) Do your homework on the people in the room.

Who is attending?

What do they care about?

What frustrates them?

What are they biased towards? Against?

Gravitas is not a universal attribute. You have gravitas with specific people.

3) Ask Insightful Questions / Make Insightful Observations.

Insights come from asking about or noticing the second- and third-order implications of a proposed course of action.

Let's say the meeting is to discuss a proposed 10% price increase.

A first-order implication might involve asking:

  • When does the price change take effect? Which products are impacted?

A second-order implication question might include:

  • For people who bought before the price change, would we refund them the price difference?

Third-order implication questions would include:

  • Would we do this automatically? Only if they complain? Or not do it at all?
  • Has the customer service leadership team been informed of the price change?
  • Have they prepared answers to frequently asked questions?
  • Have they been trained yet? If not, will they have been trained before the effective date?

Here’s another example of a second-order implication question:

  • With the proposed 10% price increase, what decline in unit sales do we expect, if any?

Other third-order implication questions would be:

  • What data did you use to determine your estimated decline in unit sales?
  • What if the change in unit sales is much worse than we expected? Do we have a backup plan?
  • What is the backup plan? Would we reverse the price increase?
  • At what point in time would we have sufficient data to determine if our initial estimates were wrong?

The key to being insightful centers around asking the question, “And then what happens?”

If price changes go up by 10%, what happens next for customer service?

What happens when customers call to complain? What happens next?

What if unit sales drop too much, then what happens next?

These are all logical progressions from a proposed action.

Every action has logical and natural consequences.

All an insightful question does is to ask what those consequences are before they actually happen.

They key to doing this is to do your homework before a meeting (even if the topic of discussion is not your area of primary responsibility) and to think about “what happens next.”

When you do this consistently, a few things happen.

Rather than being a passive meeting participant, you inject useful thinking into the dialogue.

You’re going to spot or at least reveal that certain problems haven’t been thought through.

Senior executives will notice that you added value to the meeting.

If you do this just two meetings in a row, people will notice.

Here’s why they’ll notice.

95%+ of meeting participants don’t do this.

They just listen quietly passively.

You don’t develop gravitas by sitting there.

One way to develop gravitas is to engage in a more prepared and insightful way.

To learn more about the other ways to build gravitas, just complete the form below to be included when I send emails and updates with articles and resources on how to improve your gravitas. You will also be notified of the upcoming release of my Gravitas program.

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