AboutServicesSuccess StoriesInsightsPeopleJoinContact

Blog Post

How To Get A Seat At The Table

What really gets you a seat at the table at work and what does it actually mean?

Pepper Foster Consulting

A seat at the table. An opportunity to be involved. A chance to help shape strategy. Acceptance into the club. And recognition of the importance and validity of your voice and contribution. 

Let’s be honest, for most people in the business world, the desire for a seat at the table is driven less by an eagerness to contribute and make a difference than it is by a craving to be recognized and rewarded. Or, by a belief that you deserve a seat at the table because your opinions, ideas, and input are more valuable than the opinions, ideas, and input of others!

But those desires and beliefs aren’t what get you a seat at the table because a seat at the table is not about rewards and recognition, it’s about service. And it’s not about what you believe your opinions and contributions are worth, it’s about what everybody else believes they’re worth.

It’s not about rewards, it’s about service and contribution

Although people who have a seat at the table are often paid more and have more opportunities, it’s not because they’re at the table. It’s because of all of the things they did to get to the table and all of the things they do having gotten that seat. 

Accepting a seat at the table means you are signing up for a lot of extra work, a lot more stress, a lot more responsibility, and a lot more visibility. You have to contribute more than others. And those contributions have to be at a higher level and more valuable than all of the other people that want that seat. If they’re not, you will quickly find yourself exposed, resented, and removed. 

Do you actually want a seat at the table or is it just FOMO?

Before pursuing a seat at the table, it’s important to understand your motives. Why do you want a seat at the table? What are you hoping to gain as a result? 

Are the gains worth all that extra pressure, the increased workload, enlarged visibility, and heightened expectations? Or is the reason you want a seat at the table because you fear that you’re missing out on something that is more fun, more important, or more fulfilling than what you’re doing now?  

If you do get a seat at the table, can and will you contribute at a level that is at least as valuable as the other people at the table and more valuable than everybody else that would like that seat? Will you actually enjoy it and find it fulfilling or will you start to regret it?

If you want it, you have to earn it

If, after answering all those questions, you still feel you want that seat at the table, the next thing you need to ask yourself is, have you earned it? 

What have you done to provide value above and beyond what’s normal and expected of you in your current role? How have you contributed to the goals and objectives of the organization beyond being really good at your job? Have you shown that you’re able to consider and parse opposing and different perspectives and needs across the organization or have you only been focused on your own team and your own agenda? Are you willing to accept that you might be wrong? Are you willing to sacrifice something that’s important to you for the benefit of the whole?

And prove you are ready

Getting a seat at the table isn’t just about being smart, capable, and dedicated though. It’s also about being a team player, being liked, being known, and proving you’re ready. 

You have to show to the people already at the table that your presence will be beneficial and make their lives easier and better. That your contributions will be positive, valuable, and different enough from those already being provided so there's a benefit from you being there. That discussions, decisions, outcomes, and results will be superior because you are involved. 

If you have a reputation of being dismissive, disruptive, difficult to get along with, focused too much on your own agenda, or unable to bring anything new to the table, it doesn’t matter how smart or right you are, you’re not going to get that seat. Well, not unless somebody else has an agenda they need you to support or be a stalking horse for :-) 

Get noticed for doing the right things

In short, the best way to get a seat at the table is to get noticed for doing the right things. Going above and beyond. Being a team player and a strong and well liked leader. Putting the organization’s success above your own. Being a sounding board, coach, or advisor to the people already at the table and providing them with valuable insights, ideas, and assistance. Demonstrating that you can consider and parse different perspectives and needs and find innovative solutions based on common ground. And showing you are ready by the way you act at the other tables you already have seats at. 

If you do that, you shouldn’t need to ask for a seat at the table, it should be offered to you.

Ready to talk?

Let's partner to find the perfect solution for your organization and make a difference together.

Contact us ⟶