The real meeting happens before and after the meeting.

Captain Claudia R Gerstle

Captain Claudia R. Gerstle
Managing Director - Aviation Safety
United Airlines

Captain Claudia R. Gerstle became more effective when she learned that her actions before and after important decision-making meetings are often more critical than what happens during the meeting.  Many people focus on the meeting itself - perfecting the powerpoint slides or written proposal, strategizing on how best to make their point, practicing their delivery, nailing down logistics and worrying about RSVPs.  All these factors are important but there are three often overlooked but vital time periods outside the meeting window.

The days and weeks before the meeting, Captain Gerstle counsels, is the time to spread the word, build alliances and work to understand the motivations of all the decision-makers and influencers.  This is your chance to pre-sell ideas.  Answer key questions and address concerns ahead of time and the meeting itself may become a formality.

In the minutes before the meeting, show up!  Participate in the pre-meeting conversation, establish rapport, get comfortable in the space and pick a strategic seat before they’re all taken.

Immediately after the meeting, stick around to hear and participate in sidebars.  Captain Gerstle shares that the immediate conversations frequently reveal questions not publicly voiced during the meeting.  This is an opportunity to gather additional feedback and suggestions.  Even if the decision is final, this information can help pave the way for successful implementation.  Now is also a good time to ride the wave of enthusiasm and actively engage colleagues in supporting next steps. 

These best practices are particularly important for women because we learned that the well-meaning drive to wring every ounce of efficiency out of each day often gets in the way of true effectiveness.  In our research interviews, many women described regularly eating lunch at their desks, dialing in rather than attending meetings in person so they can simultaneously complete other work, avoiding the coffee room in the morning to dodge office chit chat and adhering to strict time management principles that don’t allow extra time before and after meetings. Unfortunately, this means missing out on invaluable opportunities to improve personal effectiveness.

Challenge yourself to block time on your calendar and give Captain Gerstle’s strategy a try.  You may begin to see meetings in a whole new light.

As Managing Director of Aviation Safety at United Airlines, Captain Claudia R. Gerstle is responsible for oversight of all operational safety divisions utilizing risk-based assessment, measurement, and proactive mitigation techniques. She was chosen as one of seven Functional Integration Team Operational Leaders to lead the merger between United Airlines and Continental Airlines.  Claudia has 25 years of tenure and is the highest ranking female management pilot at the corporation. Claudia is a current and qualified Captain and is rated in Boeing, McDonnell Douglas and Airbus aircraft. Claudia has successfully managed a spectrum of small to large strategic projects and has been an industry leader in a myriad of roles.  She has gained a deep appreciation for the importance of working the process before, during and after the meeting to ensure her voice is heard and to lead the team in making good decisions.