5 Ways to Get a Seat at the Table (Or at Least Improve Your Chances)

Whether you are involved in HR, Learning, Sales or Marketing, in our work as an analyst and advisory services firm, we’ve heard our share from managers and practitioners about how they want to advance, be more involved with their organization’s executives, and have that proverbial seat at the table.

They often tell us first about their credentials–time on the job, experience working for a well-known brand and company, being in the top 10% and so on. These are all excellent reasons for wanting to advance one’s career, but careers can stall for many reasons.

I’ll keep this short and list 5 strategies for advancing your career more successfully:

  • Have passion and show it. Know what your company’s financials are — profit margins within various business segments–and be an evangelist for your organization. Passion is defined as any powerful or compelling emotion. Do you have passion?
  • Be direct. Business leaders appreciate employees who can state their mind, their reasoning and get on with it. You don’t have to be abrupt or rude. Just say what you have to say succinctly and professionally in your own personal style.  As my brother-in-law, the CEO of a transportation and logistics company and a Brandon Hall Group advisor, tells his team and employees, “Start at the end.” Sage advice.
  • Take risks. Stand up for what you believe in; you have a responsibility to the company you are working for. This basically means to stop being political and ties in with being direct.  But let’s face it, it’s also a risk. Employees who don’t have a seat at the table usually are ones that don’t want to rock the boat. The other issue with risk is the culture of your organization. If you feel you can’t take a risk and state an informed opinion without risking your career, you’re probably in the wrong organization.
  • Get some context.  Being an expert in your domain area, whether it’s HR, Talent, Sales, etc., is great. But you won’t succeed in HR if you don’t understand other parts of the business, as well as the world. Read The Economist (my favorite for gaining massive insights and context in the world we live in). Read CFO Magazine or pick something up that you would never even think about reading.
  • Lastly, make sure your work and goals are aligned with the company’s goals. If you’re part of a public company, read the annual report and if you’re unsure of what your company’s goals are, find out.

Obviously, the road to a seat at the table is more complicated than this. But these strategies – combined with a general disposition of not worrying about things you can’t control – will put you on a path toward success.

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Mike Cooke



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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.