By John Sonmez August 31, 2017

Programming Meetings: How To Act?

Being a good programmer is not always about being good at technical skills. Once you become an employer (or even if you work for yourself) there are other skills as important as technical skills that people are not always aware of.

One of the things that people value the most is: being able to efficiently work on a team. If you can make the team go ahead, you can make yourself a valuable employee.

But being in a team implies in discussion and meetings… How to act at programming meetings? How to survive when you're surrounded by peers? What to say? How to act? Watch this video and find out!

Transcript Of The Video

John Sonmez: 

Hey, what's up? John Sonmez here from simpleprogrammer.com. Tired of pushy recruiters sending you LinkedIn requests for jobs you have no interest in? Tired of blasting out resumes into the dark? If so, you should check out Hired.com. Hired.com flips job searching on its head by having top employers like Facebook come to you after you fill out one simple application. You also get your own job coach to help you on your next job search. If you haven't checked it out, I highly recommend you at least fill out the application. Just go to Hired.com/simpleprogrammer. When you get hired with Hired, you'll get double the normal sign-on bonus for using that link.

Today, I'm going to be telling you how to act at meetings. I got this question about how to act at meetings, and this is from Will, and Will says, “I recently joined a new company and it's awesome, but we have a lot of meetings.” I don’t know how a company could be awesome if it has a lot of meetings, but I'll take Will's word for it. He says, “I'm struggling a lot with the meetings. I get a little bit grumpy when people interrupt me and I feel like sometimes the meetings are a huge waste of time. Nevertheless, I feel like I need to make a good impression at meetings to advance my career. Can you give some advice on how to act at meetings? I really hate them, but I think they're really important,” and he has no additional info. No, he put further additional info. Hmm, this is tough.

There's a couple of things—I mean there's one thing that stuck out, Will, I have to say that, to me, out of everything that you said here that maybe didn’t stick out other people, but you said that you get grumpy when people interrupt you in meetings. That's interesting. I think that that has nothing to do with your etiquette at meetings, but it's maybe—I try to use this as gently as I can, but a personality defect or flaw that you might want to consider working on.

Think about why is it that you get grumpy when you're interrupted at meetings? I mean you're at this new company. I'm just thinking from the background here. It's an awesome company. Why would it be that you have this weird reaction and you're obviously showing this grumpiness when you're interrupted at meetings. There's something going on here that I'm not quite getting here, and I feel like maybe what I'm picking up and I could be wrong here, is this feeling of someone inferiority in the meetings and you feeling like if someone is interrupting you that perhaps they don't value you and you have to—you're trying to prove your worth here at these meetings.

That's really not the goal, right? I mean, there's a couple of things I'd say here is and then why I'm going down this line of thinking. The first thing is I would say is that what is the purpose of the meeting. Is the purpose the meeting to show off or to be impressive? The fact that you're asking this question, the fact that you're grumpy when interrupted, again, I'm reading a lot into that. I realize that. Sort of indicates to me that you're thinking—and you think that maybe they're a waste of time is that you're thinking that the meetings are there for you to look good. The meetings aren't there for you to look good. They're there to be over with.

Meetings suck. I'm agreeing with you 100%. I don’t like meetings. I try to avoid them as much as possible and they're a waste of time a lot of times, but don't worry about like—the purpose—when you do have a meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to get some shit done. To figure some stuff out and needs to be done that you need to have people together. I'm not saying that meetings don't get called for other reasons and that stuff doesn’t happen. That stuff happens every time, but I'm just saying like that's what you need to be focusing on.

Don't worry about necessarily how you're appearing in the meeting. Don't worry necessarily about people interrupting you, right? Focus on—I'm not saying that these things don't matter. They do, but what I'm saying is if your focus on the objective of the meeting, if you're focusing on getting this shit done that needs to get done, the reason why the meeting was created in the first place then that's going to paint you in the best light possible because people are going to see that you're posturing. You're not trying to do some silly dance to make yourself look good and make other people look bad. You're trying to accomplish the objective and that's what's going to benefit you in the long run.

Now, with that said, don't go to meetings that aren't worth your time. Right? I've done this a lot of times and I just flat out skip meetings. There's nothing worse than sitting at a meeting and being on your laptop, and checking your email and responding emails and not paying attention like it's a waste of time. It's disrespectful to the people in the meeting. You might as well just not be there. I made a resolution to myself and my career that if there is ever a meeting where I felt like I didn't need to be there. I would just excuse myself from the meeting and I just wouldn't be there. I'll just say, “I have something important.”

I mean yes, there aren't instances where you can't get away with that, but I didn't find any. Honestly, like if I said I'm not going to be at a meeting, I just don't go to a meeting. Unless my boss specifically said, “Hey, I need you at this meeting,” then I was there. Usually, if someone says that to you, it's because they want your input at the meeting and your—no one is going to interrupt you. They are going to hear you out, right? I just didn’t go to meetings for meeting's sake. If there was a meeting that didn’t need to happen, I just rejected it. I didn’t show up and that was it. No one really cared because if they did care then I should have been there and they would have needed me and they would have needed my input. That's my general philosophy, and I know that that won't work in all work environments. I know that some places you can get in trouble for not showing up at meetings, but try it. Give that a try first of all and that will alleviate a lot of your problems.

Now, the second thing I would say, if you are in a meeting just like how to act in a meeting, again, focus number one on the objective. This is the point of the meeting. Try to do the posturing and all that stuff, not a good idea, but if you are going to conduct yourself in a meeting, pay attention. Okay? This is number one. Make sure that whoever is speaking that you are paying attention and don’t interrupt them. Don't be looking at your phone. Don't be looking at your laptop. In fact, put your phone on the table face down and don't touch it, so that people can see. It's like when you get arrested and they're like, “Put the gun where I can see it. Hands down on the table.” Take your phone out of your pocket when you go to the meeting and put it down. No laptop. None of that, right? You're just going to focus on the speaker.

When you do have something to contribute, don't worry if it's stupid. Just contribute. Be active. Talk. A lot of people are afraid to talk at meetings because they're afraid they're going to say something stupid or they're going to ask a dumb question. As long as you're not wasting everyone's time with something that—because you weren’t paying attention, ask the question that you have. Speak up when you have an idea, right? These are the things that are going to help you in your career in general and don’t worry how you look. Sometimes you're going to look like an idiot, that's fine. I've often come across in some meetings in some companies I worked with as a guy that doesn’t shut up. That's fine though because I'm always suggesting ideas. I always take in charge or it's the guy that's just like controlling that’s the red personality type. That's fine. It's fine, because you know what? If you don't tell me what to fucking do, I'm going to figure it out and I'm going to tell other people what to do, and I'm going to take charge and I'm going to do that and be willing to do that. If no one is coming up with a plan, say, “Hey, look. Let's do this.” Right? Be that kind of person that solves the problem and ends the meeting, that gets the solution figured out. Don't be afraid to do that. If you come across—if your genuine interest is in moving the ball forward, if your genuine interest is in succeeding at the objective of the meeting, of solving the problem, sometimes you're going to come across as brash. Sometimes you're going to come across as this or that. if you just carefully manage that perception, that's not as effective, right? Sometimes you're going to have those negative things attached to you, but it's fine because they're going to—ultimately, the perspective that people are going to have of you is this is a guy that gets shit done. This is the guy not to mess with because he—yeah. Maybe he interrupts a couple times or maybe he's a little bit brash, but man, this guy you can count on. He's not bullshitting. He's not just posturing here. He's here to get stuff done. When there's meetings that don't apply to him, he doesn’t show up, so don't waste his time. This is a real go-getter, a real mover and shaker, a real person that I want on my team. I might not like him but I know that they're going to get the work done and they're going to do the job. That's the impression that you should be conveying at your work in general and that's the one that I would suggest that you convey at meetings rather than worrying about all this posturing.

Aside from the one thing I would say is that just make sure your focus and paying attention. As long as you're doing that, the rest of it just act natural. Just do what makes sense in order to accomplish the objective.

All right. That's all I got to say about that. That was too long. It felt like a long meeting, this whole video. All right. If you haven't subscribed already, click the Subscribe button below. I'll talk to you next time. Take care.

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."