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You're the one running the meeting, but what kind of power do you really have? Let's take a look at some typical cases.
- Bottom of the totem pole. The meeting may involve people who have more organizational power than you. Your boss might be thereor even your boss' boss. It's your meeting to run, but you have to be careful not to step on the wrong person's toes. Try to position yourself early on as the one running the meeting, even though you aren't the overall boss. If you can have a chat with your boss before the meeting to get his or her thoughts on sensitive topics, you'll breathe easier.
- Everyone is equal. Then you have meetings where nobody has power over anybody else. Here you have to make sure that the attendees grant you the authority to lead the meeting. Establish rules, and let the rules guide your behavior. Bend over backwards to be fair. As soon as one person feels he or she isn't being heard, he or she might try to undermine the meeting.
- You're in charge. Finally, in some meetings you will have power over all of the participants. In this case, make sure that everybody feels they have your permission to speak out. Do your best to let people get a chance to air their opinions, and don't let any one person monopolize the meeting. Since you're the boss, all participants will be vying for your approval.