The 4 Power Positions and how to use them in meetings
Where you choose to sit shows your status. What are you unwittingly revealing about yourself as you sit in meetings?
Most people unknowingly adopt a role at the meeting table. However, there are some players who’ll consciously decide what impact they want and choose where to sit accordingly.
If you want to have more choice on how you play on this type of stage, let’s decode the 4 Power Positions that impact on involvement.
Power Position 1
The First Power Position is occupied by the person who’s (supposed to be be) steering the meeting. It provides a clear view of everyone including whoever is entering the room. Think back to 100,000 years ago when you lived in a cave. You’d never have your back to the opening, in case a cave bear wanted to nudge you out the way. So seats facing the door (think modern offices) are always a prime position.
Power can be quiet so it doesn’t mean you’re the most vocal. In this position you may be :
- raising issues;
- bringing speakers in;
- setting procedures;
- summing up.
Power Position 2
This is usually reserved for second-in-command.
Because the position is directly opposite the Chairperson, this seating could be used to launch combat, especially in tricky negotiations or internal meetings where there’s a power struggle.
If the Chairperson wishes to avoid such situation in the case they may be likely, the following pictures will give you ideas for alternatives.
The Middle Positions
These seats are ideal for chairing when there are no seats at the head of the meeting.
It’s also a handy position for rounding up, mediating and summarising. This is because you can see everyone’s bright shiny faces. And when they look glum, bored or combative, you can use your radar vision and central placing to politely ask: “Do we have enough time for the other 15 items that are on the agenda in our 30 minute meeting.” (The answer will hopefully be ‘afraid not’).
This seat is useful taking a low profile. Don’t want to voice your opinion? Sit here. Don’t want to be the centre of attention? Choose this seat. Want to size up the situation and observe others? Park your bum in this place.
On the Chairperson’s right, indicated by the green disc, is the person to whom they look for guidance
On their left, indicated by the yellow disc, sits ‘the leader’s assistant’. This is a good position from which to:
- gently remind where you’re up to in the meeting
- speed up the meeting or slow it down.
…and there are 2 techniques for this role, one that will make you cherished at every meeting because it keeps everyone to the point and stops time wasting. But more on that in later posts.
Have a go
One of my workshop participants in Managing Up, Down and Sideways, told me they’d had a client meeting with this arrangement: seats 2 and 3 were taken up by her and her colleague, both partners in a Law firm, with seat number 8 offered to a client who was already disgruntled before the meeting and completely dissatisfied by the end.
You’ll see the partners have put themselves towards the door and the client has his back to it. They’re also on the same side, which makes a metaphorical statement.
Where would you put the client, yourself and the partner, if the client was visiting your office? Bear in mind that there may be more than one answer.
You’ll find that Power Positions can also apply in social gatherings? Notice someone dominating? Observe where they’re sitting. See the one trying to keep a low profile? Look at their position.