Conference Table Cues


Conference Table Cues

When Karen Pradhan asked me to write a few words for the Parking Today Women in Parking issue, no one knew how sensitive human relationships would seem by the time the magazine came out.

But in over 35 years of business ownership I’ve come to believe that, while there are definitely some different conditions when you are a woman consultant, in the end, some fundamental principles apply in both good times and bad – regardless of whether you are dealing with women or men.

On our conference room table, we typically have different toys, fun objects, giveaways from our colleagues, or other items that seem meaningful at the time. I want to use some of our “alternative transportation” favorites to illustrate the principles I mean.

People respond to enthusiasm, idea generation, positive reactions, and pleasant interaction.

Almost all the time, carrots work better than sticks! People respond to enthusiasm, idea generation, positive reactions, and pleasant interaction. This applies to clients and employees, and goes a long way at public hearings, community meetings, and presentations. American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson was right when he said “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” 

(The corollary to this principle is, of course, that you need to keep a stick handy.) 

If something seems really squirrely, it probably is. This can apply to RFPs that you might be interested in but can’t decipher, potential staff members you interview but just can’t quite feel comfortable with, colleague firms that talk a good game but aren’t really collegial, and representatives from organizations that always want advice but don’t want to retain your firm. First impressions are very often right. It’s important to trust your judgment and work to improve it.

It is really important to share credit, and not be “piggy” or greedy with it. Whether with employees, client representatives, someone with whom you prepare a presentation or write an article – in all instances it is kind, smart, ethical, and engaging to share credit. It builds good will, enhances another person’s self-esteem, strengthens relationships, and makes you feel good yourself.

Remaining agile requires a desire to learn new things, the ability to keep your ego in check, a recognition of important vs. transient change, and an ability to listen. In our industry at the present time, there are new signs of change every day, but some are sham and some are real. Response to the most likely changes requires the cat-like alertness and agility to determine what is worthwhile and what you need to do to address it. This also includes, for better or worse, adapting when you sometimes would prefer not to, since nothing stands still.

“A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.” Dwight Eisenhower 

Why is the moose aligned with a quote from a man who really knew how to get things done? Only because the moose in his vehicle makes me laugh. We do a lot of laughing in our office, and I’ve heard some of the worst (or best!) puns in the world here. But we keep our sanity with humor, foster good relationships with our clients with humor, and we truly enjoy the humor of our friends and colleagues in the industry. Humor makes you human.

Just as little sparrows are valued, it is imperative to remember that everyone has a story. I’m a fairly impatient person, so I sometimes forget that everyone I interact with has a story, could use some encouragement, needs to convey something that is important to them, or doesn’t get a “hearing” somewhere else. Kindness costs nothing, even if it is sometimes frustrating. When consulting, kindness is an amazing approach, and more often than not, the place where you find the information or the insight you need. It is not always with the eagles.

Loyalty is worth getting the old-fashioned way – you have to earn it. Loyalty from the people you work with, and who know you best, is golden. It is support in difficult times, a “kick in the pants” when warranted, advice when you need it, and celebration in good times. Loyalty from friends, colleagues, and clients makes most of us feel what we do has worth and is important enough to warrant that feeling. Loyalty built up over the years is like fine wine – it only gets better.

I could go on and illustrate other points with additional animals that hang out on our table, but you get the point. It is the quality of the people you work with, in all ways, that makes the difference. Everything else is just exhaust and congestion.

Thanks to Vince Mowad for photography and Joe Sciulli for helpful edits.

Barbara J. Chance, Ph.D. is CEO of CHANCE Management Advisors, Inc. Contact her at

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Article contributed by:
Barbara Chance, Ph.D.
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