I worked with a client once who felt uncomfortable sharing her opinion at meetings—especially ones with people above her in the organizational chart. She said that she typically felt OK if she had a well-thought out opinion that she had researched and could back up with solid data, but she didn’t always have her opinions that well-researched. And then our conversation continued:


Me: OK, so the higher-ups in those meetings value a well-researched, fact-based opinion. Gotcha. What else do you think they value?

Client: What do you mean ‘what else do they value?’

Me: Yeah, if we consider that they might value multiple things from people who attend the meetings—with a well-researched opinion being one of those things—what other things do you think they value?

Client: I don’t know… (pause) I’ve never thought about it.


And that’s my point—you have to think about it. We’re often so committed to what we know has worked for us (in my client’s case, her success with contributing well-researched opinions) that we forget to think outside the box about what else might work. Who knows? Those other things might even add more value and be even easier for us to bring to the table.


We went on to brainstorm a few possibilities based on my client’s observations of people’s behavior and contributions during those meetings. Sometimes the higher-ups seemed to value good, insightful questions—even if the person asking them didn’t have the answers to them. Other times they seemed to value people who could make connections to people outside of the group. Other times they valued people who could bring humor to tense situations. Or people who could recap, in a neutral, objective way, the opposing sides of a live argument. It turned out that higher-ups in a meeting don’t value just one thing. Like the rest of us, they value many different things.


So the next time you’re in a meeting and wondering if what you’re about to say will make the grade in the ‘smart comment’ category or in some other, singular category that you think is ‘what people value,’ consider this: What else might they value that you’re capable of providing right now?



Guillermo Villar is principal coach with Cambio Coaching. He helps high-achieving individuals and teams communicate with intention to get the business results they want.