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Grandstanding: Just Say No

By Bob Priest-Heck

You meet two kinds of fans at spectator-sport events. One is the fan who is so excited and passionate about the team’s chances that, as she cheers and shout encouragements, her enthusiasm becomes infectious. Everyone pays more attention and pulls a little harder for the home team. The other guy you meet is the hotdog who is so loud and obnoxious that you realize he’s just trying to attract attention. He may even shout abuses against the home team, because it’s not about the game, it’s all about him. He needs to impress you with his superior knowledge of the sport and be acknowledged as the #1 fan. Of course, we are simply embarrassed for this guy and how insecure he is.

Unfortunately, I often witness this kind of grandstanding in meetings and other business situations. It happens at every level. Someone tries to take over a meeting. Not in the passionate way of an enthusiast, but in the “I’m the Alpha Dog” sense. No one is impressed. Usually, I wonder what just happened in that person’s life to make them feel weak or threatened. Exactly what are they compensating for?

Of course, even the true enthusiast can suck up more air in the room than they should. I have been guilty of commanding more than my share of agenda time in a meeting, especially when I feel strongly about the subject and have a clear sense of urgency. It’s only later I consider that, when I turn my passion on, I effectively shut others down. It’s something I’m trying to work on. Even so, when I see this happen to someone else in a meeting, even if I have to play agenda-cop, my empathy is with the person evangelizing for their cause, because enthusiasm is contagious.

That is different, and vastly more forgivable, than grandstanding. I just cringe when someone tries to commandeer a meeting, manage a conversation, dominate an interview, and otherwise prove that they are “in charge” for no better reason than to upstage everyone else in the room. Please — don’t go there. When you try that hard to flex your muscles, it only makes you look weak. When you crave our approval that much, you lose our respect. And when your showboating simply rocks the boat, without creating forward motion, you distract us from the real business at hand.

If you are ever tempted to grandstand, consider that there are better ways to demonstrate both authority and acuity. Invite others to listen to someone who might be reticent to speak. Throw your clout behind an underdog’s idea that deserves attention. Indulge a less secure person with your undivided attention. You’ll earn their appreciation and our respect.

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