“Knowing where the trap is — that’s the first step in evading it.”






“I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse, perhaps, to be locked in.”



Virginia Woolf





I was recently in a business meeting and was reminded about how often the success of a meeting can teeter on a ‘trap’ moment.




And whether you note it or not … all meetings have traps. Even good meetings.




Simplistically, successful meetings tend to revolve around two things:



  • Grounding insights



  • Founding insights



Not surprisingly meeting traps also revolve around these.insights people


Grounding insights tend to be the things you know or learn from which traps spring forth.

They are the lay of the land which you almost have to view from a 10,000 foot view to successfully navigate. If you view the meeting from the ground you only see the trees and … well … inevitably wander into some trap as you avoid a tree or two.


Founding insights tend to be the things that show you the entrance to the trap … as well as the exit from the trap.


Ok. Some discussion of these insights.


Grounding insights can be fairly simplistic.


The audience doesn’t believe you know your shit. A specific person may be antagonistic … while others value you. There may be one specific topic which holds all your value and credibility. You could be perceived as a necessary evil because ‘the boss’ hired you <and likes you>. You can be associated with what was done <and not what ‘should’ have been done> and not what will be done


By the way … these grounding insights may be things that are known even as the meeting gathers or can be gathered throughout the meeting.


Suffice it to say … any good meeting manager seeks to gather the grounding insights as quickly as possible.


In addition … any good meeting manager also assesses them as they arise and tries to judge when to address and acknowledge them. Yeah. Sometimes you don’t address immediately. Or acknowledge. You just store the grounding insight in your head and navigate the meeting around them or using them.




There is also a difference between ‘seeing’ a grounding insight and ‘accepting’ a grounding insight. This may seem weird but imagine you have worked with someone for a while and believed you had done some good work and offered some good thinking … and then they shift some management people and the new person doesn’t see the value in what you had done.



Even the most oblivious business person sees this. But it can be difficult to accept. And if you don’t accept it the natural tendency is to automatically showcase what has been done in the past to say “I do know my shit!”





You are walking into a trap.


That is, 99% of the time, absolutely the wrong thing to do.


It is like showcasing something you are touting as well crafted tailored goods where the ‘buyer’ is seeing only a cheap handmade good.

stuck blocked where you want to go


This disconnect only gets more firm and grounded the more you keep on this path.


And, by the way, once in this particular trap it is a frickin’ bear to get out of it.


Once in you almost are forced to do something abrupt to shake the etch a sketch.


The good news is that this trap is fairly easy to avoid.


If you accept the grounding principle you swing away from the past and sell your credibility off the future. Match your capabilities & abilities to the future vision and future plan and build credibility by showcasing how you thought through the plan and the plan implementation <or whatever you believe the future should contain>.




It takes good meeting managers a while to learn how to suck it up and ‘accept what they see.’ It is not an easy thing to do.




That ‘good meeting manager’ phrase.


Let’s be clear.


This shit ain’t easy.


While I am simplistically outlining some basics everyone knows … implementing it is difficult. It is about a combination of hearing specific words or phrases, some body language and possibly even something as obscure as a random note being taken at a specific moment.


And, to be clear, the grounding insights can be created by the speaker and/or the receiver <seller or buyer>.


For example … what I mean by that is the speaker, even with the best intentions, can trap the listener  with a grounding insight.  The most obvious way most of us trap a listener is by suggesting the most senior person in their organization/department has a good relationship with the speaker. We do not mean to trap by bringing it up <we offer it up believing it creates some credibility> but credibility, and value, depends on whether the receiver  attaches it to a ‘good believed value of services provided.’

If there is a gap there <“i am not seeing a whle shitload of value“> the play for credibility through a senior person traps the face-to-face decision maker.



I imagine all I am saying is if you see the trap you can deal with it. The example I shared is a common unintended trap <most of the time> and can be navigated <assuming you see the trap>.




Once you have the grounding insight or insights established you will start taking note that meeting strategy almost always incorporates guiding someone to a specific question that someone wants an answer to.


You have now moved into the ‘founding insights’ level of a meeting.solving-a-problem-business-trap-in-head


Founding insights are your directional signs on the meeting journey. Ignore the signs at your own peril.

And even if you don’t ignore that doesn’t mean you will always follow the right sign nor will many of the signs reflect some simple ‘go this way’ instructions.


But, simplistically, all signs lead to a specific question and answer.


That moment when someone has a gang buster answer and they know it will be much more powerful if you offer it as a response rather than simply lay it out on the table so there is a purposeful guiding of someone to a question.

This is “meeting strategy with a good intent.”


That moment someone is testing and they are fairly sure someone is not going to answer something correctly and the person swoops in to make the point that it didn’t reflect the ‘right answer.’

This is “meeting strategy with a bad intent.’


Just know that almost all meetings have people with both good intentions and bad intentions and inevitably all meetings are strewn with traps.


Some purposeful and some not so purposeful.

And not all traps are created equal.


But let me tell you when to be most aware for traps in business … when you are being judged and there is a negative perception with regard to the value of what you are doing already pervading the essence bad-idea-trap-meeting-kill-it-businessof the room.


This situation is the type in which seemingly meaningless traps become moments of potential death.


If you are not paying attention and wander into one of these traps about the only way out of it is to go on the offensive and steal the follow up question or point.


You have to because death almost always resides in the moment you permit the person to follow up.


Do you really think that is the way to do it?



Or even worse … a “well, this is the way I would look at it” statement.


The first you are forced to answer … no.


And the obvious follow-up is “well, then why didn’t you say that and why did you do what you did?”


The second … well … you are forced to listen to a ‘lecture’ which firmly places you in the “you don’t know shit from shanola” space.


This is why you need to get there before they do.

The only way out of a trap is to keep going.


To be clear.


99% of any type of insight or moment or situation can be flipped.



In addition.

A well crafted extrication from a trap situation <not the trap itself> earns some new respect and you can often see some people sit back and begin ever so slightly rejudging.


I would argue that extricating yourself from a trap BEFORE you get trapped is, 99.9% of the time, the absolute best meeting strategy.


I say that because once in a trap it is extremely difficult to get out without additional wounds & bludgeoning. I would go back to my 99% number again and suggest 99% of the time if you get trapped in this situation you either are killed or are so wounded it is difficult to win.


That said. I can absolutely state that if you get trapped in a meeting and can ‘untrap’ yourself well … well … that is a meeting game changer. And while I note that previous thought … I will state that I have never purposefully allowed myself to be trapped in a meeting. And I will suggest that no sane business person purposefully allows themselves to be trapped.


I think I have only been in one meeting in my entire professional career where I was in a meeting trap & felt like my business Life & relationship was so wounded that I had nothing to lose and rolled the dice on the 1% chance out of the trap. I can unequivocally state that you know when you are in this position because it feels, if but for a moment, like all the oxygen gets sucked out of the room.


It worked out but I will do everything in my power to never be in that situation ever again.

words navigate life



I just thought about this because of a meeting.


Grounding insights and founding insights are tricky things to see and accept while in the midst of a meeting. You can alternatively find yourself locked out as well as locked in as you navigate a meeting.


Suffice it to say … a successful meeting almost always rests on how well you see the grounding insights and founding insights, how well you accept the grounding insights and founding insights and how well you navigate your way around and through the traps they inevitably create.

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Written by Bruce