Why You NEED to Think on Your Feet
Ever joined a new team or took on a new project and spent the first twenty minutes of a meeting trying to wrap your head around what was said in the first five minutes? Workplaces move fast. Even in today’s culture where many of us are working from home, speed is a priority.
Thinking on your feet is a crucial skill if you want to get to the next level of your career, but it can be difficult to go about improving it. It seems so vague, doesn’t it? And whatever happened to the value of working diligently and methodically?
But what I’m talking about here is those moments in our work where we have to put the pedal to the metal and make a decision. When it comes down to it, decisions have to get made in order to move forward on something, and there’s simply no room for analysis paralysis. So how should we improve it?
If thinking on your feet is difficult, then prep work is your best friend. Have your slides ready to go, arrive early to handle any technical issues, and anticipate and have responses prepared for potential questions. Even if you’re not presenting anything, go into a meeting with an understanding of the goals and a little background research up your sleeve. Even five minutes of prep can make a meeting exponentially more useful.
Get comfortable with improv
Probably the most difficult to-do on this list, and it takes a lot of practice and time to develop. Comedic timing is an art form and a skill, but give it a shot. A little laughter never hurt anyone. Crack a joke, respond with a witticism, and go with the flow. Being quick on your feet means adapting to change without seeming to struggle with it, so develop a practice of responding to the unexpected with good humor and charm.
Take time if you need time
There are times where people want a decision or an answer, but you just don’t feel good about making it on the spot. An important part of thinking on your feet is being able to recognize that you shouldn’t be quick on your feet. Maybe you need more information or a piece of data to make a decision. Maybe you need to sit and think about it. Either way, don’t let yourself get backed into a corner and come out with a decision that you weren’t actually ready for.
Speak up and be clear about why you don’t feel good about moving forward.
Preparing for meetings, doing improvisation, and having good boundaries are all really important components of getting that seat at the table you’re after. The common thread between all of them is generating a sense of confidence in ourselves. Being quick on your feet means you can make a decision (or decide not to decide) without second-guessing ourselves to the point of exhaustion.
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