You’re preparing for a big pitch to your boss. You’re concerned because your boss is “tough,” “hard to read” and has historically hijacked your meetings. You know the big picture and the granular details of your project, and you want your work recognized. If this sounds familiar, even reasonable, I ask you, “What’s wrong with this picture?” Why does this defensive dynamic exist and how do you rise to the top with a well prepared, targeted, intelligent presentation that meets the needs of you and your boss? Here is the work you need to do to turn this dynamic around:

Change Your Lens. Nine times out of ten, you (like most human beings) haven’t taken the time to challenge your assumptions about your boss and decode deeper meaning behind “tough,” and “hard to read.” When we spend concentrated time deconstructing who your boss is (Introvert? Extrovert?), what stresses they are under (they have 10 other direct reports) and what they really need from you (high-level transparent summary of your division’s results and challenges), your perspective will shift – this can be minor or dramatic, but it always happens, and it makes a difference. The new lens helps you depersonalize and detach enough to shift your focus to the needs of your organization and what you can do to contribute to its success. How hard is this to do on a scale of 1 – 10? It’s easy, I’d say a 3 – and most clients we work with love the lens-changing process.

It’s YOUR Job to Make this Work. You showing up with 10 pages of reports and no perspective or analysis would make me hijack the meeting as well. Likewise, treating all data the same, without differentiating between the big, fat issues of the last three months, and the salient details of the small hiccups makes me want to scream. Your boss wants you to connect the dots. Don’t make him or her do all the work. You have to stop meandering and do the hard work of figuring out what is important to include and what needs to be tossed. How hard is this to do on a scale of 1 – 10? I’d say this is the 8-10 range for most of us. It is so hard to step out of the quagmire of our own day-to-day processes, responsibilities and the important details that consume our time. It is the proverbial not seeing the forest for the trees. To my mind, the biggest benefit of coaches and consultants is that they force this process to happen.

Ask for What You Need Just like you must connect the dots for your boss about the big picture, you have to clearly, directly and succinctly tell them what you need from them. Whether it’s support for an initiative, funding, more resources, strategic input, you can NOT assume that your most excellent presentation makes clear your desired outcome and action plan. You cannot leave this to chance, good fortune or mind reading. Make the ask. How hard is this to do on a scale of 1 – 10? Well, it’s so easy, it’s a 1. But most of us don’t even step on the scale.

And, by the way, these three steps are required not just for your presentation to your boss, but for your team update, board meeting, plenary session or Ted Talk. This is a road-tested formula that takes you from lightweight to great.


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