Saturday, May 17, 2008

Take your damn seat at the table

For about the last 20 years, I’ve heard a lot of whining from training and HR folks about wanting to “have a seat at the table”. We love to flog ourselves about why we stink , and to criticize our executives about having their heads up their behinds for not recognizing how important we could be.

I know, I used to do the same thing. And I also spent time “marketing” my training team, conducting phony ROI studies, and taking on any scrap assignment thrown my way as a way to prove our worth and “earn” a seat at the all important table.

Well, I’ve learned over the years that if you want a seat at the table, you need to assume it’s yours, just barge in, and take it. Grab a cookie, have a seat, pour a glass of water, and contribute to the success of the business. Executives aren’t stupid people – if you have something substantial to offer, they listen. And if you don’t – if you try to get away with shoveling fluff at them, they are quick to size you up and dismiss you. Take your cookie and go home.

For the last 10 years I’ve been hearing about the importance of leadership development and talent management. For me, that’s been an open invitation to join the party. I’ve never felt so valued and had so many opportunities to play. My team’s dance cards are consistently filled to capacity. And not just because the need is there – and it is – we are drowning in a sea of opportunity. More importantly, it’s because we know what we’re doing – we know how to develop leaders and we’re damn good at it.

By the way – that seat at the table we’re all clamoring for – it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. But that’s fodder for another post.


Michael D. Haberman, SPHR said...

Hello Dan. I really like your blog too. I have subscribed as well. I look forward to reading your posts.

Anonymous said...


Great post and point! Because, really, how many of those "other people" were sent an engraved invitation to the table. Probably they just assumed that they were supposed to be there, sat down, rolled up their sleeves and go to work trying to make the business a success. Past time we did the same.

I have linked to this post on my own blog-

Dan McCarthy said...

Michael, thanks for subscribing, and Ann, thanks for the link and recommendation.
Two seats for both of you at my table.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dan;

Compliments for the great comment. I was at a recent state HR convention where one of the breakout sessions was CEO & HR roundtable. Unfortunately, the CEOs were at the roundtable and HR was relegated to the audience. Observational feedback has been provided. Your post reinforces the courage needed instead of useless lamentations.

Anonymous said...

First, I would like to comment on how great your blog is.
Second, you have an excellent point in this post. Rather than taking the sidelines and keeping all your ideas to your self, if you really want to be a part of the team, just go for it! :)

Dan McCarthy said...

snwd - thanks for the comment!

Eric Gamble said...

Excellent comments. Very few great men & women in history rarely waited for "their seat" or waited to be asked to the "big meeting". Heck, most of them didn't even know there was even a meeting and if they had probably would have skipped out on that waste of time anyways. They just saw a problem and took initiative with confidence, perseverence, knowledge, and a little fear which fueled them to succeed.
This is a great blog. Keep up the great work.

Anonymous said...


Excellent website. You cover the important T&D information clearly and concisely, and your advice refects someone who has worked in the field and really understands it.

Have a question...

When you advise HR people to barge in and to take their seat at the table, that's a figure of speech isn't it? What you really saying is that HR ought to act like they belong and they will get invited to contribute?

Anonymous said...

I think the same suggestion should be applied to the Learning departments who also fall prey to whining (how can we prove the value of training). Quit complaining that no one is listening and start to focus on giving them something worth listening to.

Excellent post!

Dan McCarthy said...

Anon -
Right, a figure of speech, and don't wait to be asked. Although for chocolate chip cookies, I might even barge in.

Talentedapps - right, same for training. I get sick of hearing about how we need to “prove the value of training”, and run around doing self-serving level 3 and 4 evaluations. Finance doesn’t have to prove their value; either does legal. Why do we feel we have to?