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Submitted by miller_sacramento on


Am I holding my career back by not being more dominant in meetings with senior leaders?

I am a high D/C IT manager in a company overwhelmingly high D, or D/I.  I am considered a primary ops and process subject matter expert (SME), and am often invited to senior meetings. 

In this company, leaders all share the high D similar personality.  Most of the people getting promoted to director and above for the past couple of years all share this.  Every meeting or presentation is dominated by the most senior leader in the room.  He or she takes up most of the time talking.  It is the norm for leaders to interrupt each other mid-sentence.  The exec directors and directors take turns interrupting the senior leader to make a point and participate in the conversation.  The execs interrupt right back.  This goes on for the duration of the meeting. 

Analysts and managers seldom speak as we all wait for a break in the action to make a point, and there never seems to be a break in the action.

I remember from a past podcast setting personal goals to speak in meetings.  I long ago set a personal goal to be an active, contributing member of every meeting I take part in.  That always includes being active in the conversation.   Head nods of agreement (rather than actual conversation) never count towards achievement of my goal, nor do I believe towards being an effective leader. 

However, I feel that I’m still not participating enough.

Is this business normal? Do I learn that art or interruption to show how excited and engaged I am in the conversation?  I suspect that is the case and the problem really is with me.  Or is this just the culture where I am now?  Other places don’t have this conversation dominance at the leadership level. 

As a respected SME, I am beginning to feel that I have become the perfect manager. And that I will continue being the expert perfect Manager for the rest of my career.    

Thanks for your advice!


gdc2579's picture

Miller - 

Your question caught my attention, because I’ve been in similar a similar position.

Hopefully, I can offer you some direction, and someone else will chime in with additional advice.

When it comes to promotions, being an excellent leader and subject matter expert (SME) is a double-edged sword. It ensures that you are included in major projects (allowing opportunity for input), but also make you difficult to replace (making it hard for the selfish company to promote you).

These two factors do not change, simply because you interrupt more in meetings.

Can you speak up or interject more often? Probably, but I personally wouldn’t do that simply to be recognized more. You could quickly be labeled as the disgruntled, non-promoted employee.

Indicators that you need to speak up sooner or more often might be:

-       When you leave a meeting feeling that your particular information was not included in the conversation/decision

-       If you feel the impulse to interject and don’t, then someone else eventually offers your objection and it changes the outcome

Again, my suggestion is to attend the meeting with the intent to contribute toward the project. There may be times that doing so will require your interruptions to be most effective. However, I would not advise intentionally interrupting for any other purpose – especially for career enhancement, because that will be seen for what it is an undermine your effectiveness.

Sometimes effective leaders and SME’s are left in a position simply because the company is selfish and afraid to lose them. While they/you should be developing people to take your place, this doesn’t always happen. Eventually, the leader/SME realizes they have hit a ceiling in their job and are forced to decide whether they will continue contributing in that role or seek employment elsewhere.

(I mentioned that I’ve been in a similar position. For me, it was a running joke that the company would not take on a major or complex project without my inclusion, and they would openly state that they didn’t know how they would replace me if I left or were promoted. Eventually, this led me to look elsewhere, and – using the MT Interviewing Series – I was offered a director position in my first attempt. This left me in the interesting position of choosing whether to move to a new workplace (where I would have to prove myself all over) or stay with my company (where I was proven and respected, but advancement seemed unlikely). Perhaps that should’ve been decided in advance!)

Back to your question: If interrupting more is not the solution, how might you stay with your current employer and increase your chances of promotion? In short - I do not know. I’m sure MT has answered this somewhere, and I’m hoping someone else can join us with suggestions for you.

Until then, here are some related forum discussions and shownotes that may interest you. I apologize that some require a Premium MT Subscription.

Annual Review When Looking For Promotion Shownotes

How and when to ask for a promotion?

How To Stay Organizationally Current Shownotes

Passed Over For a Position-Should I Ask Why?

Series on Getting Ready to be Promoted



PS: Any views expressed are my own, the product of 18 years in leadership, shaped by 10+ years listening to MT podcasts, but are in no way intended to represent MT or their views. If I'm wrong, please tell me so.

miller_sacramento's picture
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Thank you, Gary!  I appreciate the feedback, and how you’ve helped me understand this more completely.

Your point on ‘When you leave a meeting feeling that your particular info was not included...’ resonated.  I do end up getting the outcomes I shoot for a lot of the time.  However, I do lose battles over some consequential stuff.  In struggling to make myself heard, I’ve failed to make folks understand the negative consequences. That’s where I feel like I’m not doing my job effectively. 

I appreciate the links to the shows!  I’m a very longtime MT fan and it’s been ages since I last referred to these.  I’m due for a refresher.