by Randy G. Pennington | January 01, 2004

Getting a spot at top management meetings a permanent seat at the table where key decisions are made has little to do with your boss understanding what you do, valuing your certification or appreciating your hard work.
   Those things might secure a one-time invitation to a meeting or perhaps a blind-copy inclusion on an e-mail transmission, but permanent seats are reserved for leaders. Here are five things you can do to increase your leadership value and grow your career.

A great meeting is the tool. A fantastic business is the goal. Major decisions are influenced by those who know the difference and act accordingly. 
   Knowing your organization’s history, major products or services, and branding slogan is not enough. Be sure you know the answers to these questions: How does your organization make money? What is its unique position in the marketplace? What trends will affect your success in the next five years? What are your employer’s strategic goals? Most important, how can you contribute to those goals? 
   Independent planners and suppliers should answer these questions for each client as well as their own businesses.

Trust is a crucial component of your ability to influence others. When trust is absent, individuals protect their own interests. Following through on commitments, honoring confidences and telling the truth even when it is not convenient are behaviors that earn and retain trust.

With what issues are you concerned? Frontline staff typically think about what’s happening today, this week and this month. First-line supervisors expand their view to this quarter. Mid-managers extend to a six-month or a one-year window. Successful executives have the ability to “multithink”; they see immediate challenges and simultaneously project the implications of a decision into the future. Your strategic value increases as you broaden your focus horizon. 

The leaders in your organization speak in a unique dialect based on success indicators. Manufacturers discuss “cycle time.” Service companies might track “revenue per employee.” Many associations are concerned about “revenue and cost per member.” 
   Virtually everyone discusses return on investment. Planners often justify it based on cost savings. But the metrics others use to evaluate ROI can be different. Corporate managers might measure it based on increased sales or market penetration. Association leaders might weigh member retention or exhibits sold. Learn the jargon of the decision-makers.

To earn the right to contribute to your organization’s strategic direction, you must deliver more than expected, and that contribution must be seen as greater than its cost. 
   You add value when you link your activities to your employer’s strategic goals and show a revenue-generating impact from your participation. You add value by experimenting with new ideas, rather than relying on old action items. You add value when you develop strong relationships forged in a bond of mutual respect, openness and trust. 
   Albert Einstein said, “The problems of today cannot be resolved by the same mind that created them.” Meetings professionals find themselves in the trap of justifying their worth when they fail to contribute value to the enterprise. Ask better questions of yourself and your organization. The quality of the answers we receive is in direct proportion to the quality of the questions we ask.