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10 Big Mistakes To Avoid Making When Presenting To The Boss

10 Big Mistakes To Avoid Making When Presenting To The Boss

Presenting to the boss can turn highly talented, intelligent and creative professionals into nervous, jabbering, sleepless messes — but not if you know the key mistakes to avoid.

The strangest analogy I’ve heard was from a former colleague of mine who, after presenting to the CEO for the very first time, left the office looking rather pale. On asking her how it went, she replied by saying, “Well, I’m not too sure. You see, it started off well; he was smiling, attentive, and very polite, but it felt like I was meeting with my gynecologist in that I would soon be leaving the room feeling a little violated.”

Sometimes, a good way to learn is through knowing the mistakes others have made before you. With that in mind, here are my top 10 presentation tips from both my personal and professional experience.

1. Don’t “sit on the fence”

There really is nothing more annoying than listening to someone drone on and on for 20 minutes, drowning you in data and facts, when it’s perfectly clear that they aren’t committed to the topic in terms of making it clear where they stand on it. Take a position, stand by it, and make it clear which side of the fence you are on.

Don’t sit on the fence. Otherwise, you really will get some seriously painful splinters.

2. Lose the attitude

All day long, your boss deals with people who are trying to look good, impress them, or simply suck up to them in some way. It’s not very attractive, and even though it’s the essence of many business presentations, the really good leaders find it tiresome — they don’t need their egos stroked. What your boss wants from you, more than anything, is to see the real you; so tell it as you see it.

Don’t give the “corporate spokesperson” speech. Let them see the real you; that means losing the jargon too.  

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3. Skip the small talk

Your boss doesn’t have time for small talk, so make sure you get straight to the point. Don’t be like a comedian and save the punchline for the end. Deliver your key message straight away and do so with impact.

4. Don’t just present

I really don’t know anyone who actually enjoys the process of being presented to. Most people don’t have the time, attention span, or patience to simply sit there listening to someone read bullet-point slides.

Craft a conversation instead. Get them really thinking. Ask them questions. Help them to use their imagination. If appropriate, challenge their perspective — don’t just accept theirs because they are the boss.

5. Surprise them

I can promise you that for every 10 presentations your boss endures in a week, all 10 of them will be very similar to each other in most respects. You have an amazing opportunity to inspire, enlighten, and engage your boss, so please don’t waste it.

Tell them powerful stories, use props or provocative slides, make them curious, make them laugh. In short, be creative, dare to be different, and surprise them in some way.

6. Help them to feel something

Most business presentations are really boring.

Don’t just talk, but try to really connect with them emotionally by asking yourself “what do you want them to feel?”.

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7. Don’t make them read

The very last thing your boss wants to do is to read your slides or report while you are talking at them.

It’s not a presentation or conversation if they are forced to read. It’s simply you making them read and they won’t thank you for it.

The spoken word elicits a far greater effect than the written word. It’s your job to breathe life into your report, update, or idea, and you will never achieve that by simply making them read it.

8. Make them look good

It’s human nature for each of us to want to look good and to impress our audience when presenting; that self-imposed pressure is often the greatest cause of anxiety many professionals experience.

When all you can think about is how well you must perform and how much your reputation is at stake, you are making it all about you rather than your audience.

Focus instead on how you can help your boss and how you can make their life, job, department, or company better and stronger.

9. Be playful

Remember when we were small children and we asked our parents if we could go outside to play with our friends? Often, one of the first responses you would hear is “Yes, but play nicely.”

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When it comes to presenting, playing nicely doesn’t mean fooling around or making jokes. It just means not taking yourself so seriously, lightening up, relaxing a little, smiling, and having a sense of humor.

Your boss really is human too, so “play nicely” with them.

10. Get out of your head

That doesn’t mean smoking or consuming some mind-altering substance before you present — it means being in the room rather than in your own head.

Many professionals make the mistake of not quietening the noise in their minds before they present to the boss. They enter the room with their minds furiously popping thoughts around like a popcorn maker.

“I hope they don’t ask me a question I can’t answer.”

“I bet I’ll mess this up.”

“I wish I’d done more research on this.”

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“What if they don’t agree?”

Staying in your head like this serves no useful purpose to either you or your boss.

Your job is to be completely present in the room as you speak. That’s the only way you will connect with your audience. You can achieve that by simply taking a couple of minutes to focus on your breathing, meditating to calm the noise in your head, and pausing and smiling before you speak.

Have you made any of these or other mistakes that we could all learn from? If so, please feel free to share them in the comments.

Image courtesy of http://www.dreamstime.com/

Featured photo credit: Tim Gouw via unsplash.com

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Published on November 12, 2020

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

What’s the most draining, miserable job you’ve ever had? Maybe you had a supervisor with unrealistic demands about your work output and schedule. Or perhaps, you worked under a bullying boss who frequently lost his temper with you and your colleagues, creating a toxic work environment.

Chances are, though, your terrible job experience was more all-encompassing than a negative experience with just one person. That’s because, in general, toxicity at work breeds an entire culture. Research shows abusive behavior by leaders can and often quickly spread through an entire organization.[1]

Unfortunately, working in a toxic environment doesn’t just make it miserable to show up to the office (or a Zoom meeting). This type of culture can have lasting negative effects, taking a toll on mental and physical health and even affecting workers’ personal lives and relationships.[2]

While it’s often all-encompassing, toxic culture isn’t always as blatant or clear-cut as abuse. Some of the evidence is more subtle—but it still warrants concern and action.

Have a feeling that your workplace is a toxic environment? Here are 5 surefire signs to look for.

1. People Often Say (or Imply) “That’s Not My Job”

When I first launched my company, I had a very small team. And back then, we all wore a lot of hats, simply because we had to. My colleagues and I worked tirelessly together to build, troubleshoot, and market our product, and nobody complained (at least most of the time).

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Because we were all in it together, with the same shared vision in mind, cooperation mattered so much more than job titles. Unfortunately, it’s not always that way.

In some workplaces, people adhere to their job descriptions to a fault:

  • Need help with an accounting problem? Sorry, that’s not my job.
  • Oh, you spilled your coffee in the break room? Too bad, I’m working.
  • Can’t figure out the new software? Ask IT.

While everyone has their own skillset—and time is often at a premium—cooperation is important in any workplace. An “it’s not my job” attitude is a sign of a toxic environment because it’s inherently selfish. It implies “I only care about me and what I have to get done” and that people aren’t concerned about the collective good or overall vision.[3] That type of perspective is not only bound to drain individual relationships; it also drains overall morale and productivity.

2. There’s a Lack of Diversity

Diversity is a vital part of a healthy work environment. We need the opinions and ideas of people who don’t see the world like us to move ahead. So, when leaders don’t prioritize diversity—or worse, they actively avoid it—I’m always suspicious about their character and values.

Limiting your workforce to one type of person is bound to prevent organizations from growing healthily. But even if your work environment is diverse in general, the management might prevent diverse individuals from rising to leadership positions, which only misses the point of having a diverse work environment in the first place.

Look around you. Who’s in leadership at your company? Who gets promotions and rewards most often? If the same type of people gets ahead while other individuals consistently get left behind, you might be working in a toxic environment.

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However it manifests in your workplace, keep in mind that a lack of diversity is a tell-tale sign that “bias is rampant and the wrong things are valued.”[4]

3. Feedback Isn’t Allowed

Just as individual growth hinges on being open to criticism, an organization’s well-being depends on workers’ ability to air their concerns and ideas. If management actively stifles feedback from employees, you’re probably working in a toxic environment.

But that definitely doesn’t mean nobody will air their feelings. One of the telltale signs of toxic leadership is when employees vent on the sidelines, out of management’s earshot. When I worked in a toxic environment, coworkers would often complain about higher-ups and company policies during work in private chats or after work hours.

It’s normal to get frustrated at work. That’s just a part of having a job. What isn’t normal is when dissent isn’t a part of or discouraged in the workplace. A workplace culture that suppresses constructive feedback will not be successful in the long run. It’s a sign that leadership isn’t open to new ideas, and that they’re more concerned about their own well-being than the health of the organization as a whole.

4. Quantifiable Measures Take Priority

Sales numbers, timelines, bottom lines—these metrics are, of course, important signs of how things are going in any business. But great leaders know that true success isn’t always measurable or quantifiable. More meaningful factors like workplace satisfaction, teamwork, and personal growth all contribute to and sustain these metrics.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, and they shouldn’t be the only concern. Measure-taking should always take a backseat to meaning-making—working together to contribute to a vision that improves people’s lives. If your workplace zones in on quantifiable measures of success, it’s probably not prioritizing what truly matters. And it’s probably also instilling a fear of failure among employees, which paralyzes employees instead of motivating them.

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5. The Policies and Rules Are Inconsistent

Every organization has its own set of unique policies and procedures. But often, unhealthy workplaces have inconsistent, unspoken “rules” that apply differently to different people. When one person gets in trouble for the same type of behavior that promotes another person, workers will feel like management plays favorites—which isn’t just unethical but also a quick way to drain morale and fuel tension in the office.[5] It only shows how incompetent the leadership is and indicates a toxic workplace.

For example, maybe there’s no “set” rule about work hours, but your manager expects certain people or departments to show up at 8 am while other individuals tend to roll in at 9 or 10 am with no real consequences. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that your organization’s leadership is more concerned with controlling people and exerting power rather than the overall good of their employees.

How to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment

The first thing to know if you’re stuck in a toxic work environment is that you’re not stuck. While it’s ultimately the company’s responsibility to make positive changes that prevent harmful actions to employees, you also have an opportunity to speak up about your concerns—or, if necessary, depart the role altogether.

If you suspect that you’re working in a toxic environment, think about how you can advocate for yourself. Start by raising your grievances about the culture in an appropriate setting, like a scheduled, one-on-one meeting with your supervisor.

Can’t imagine sitting down with your supervisor to air those problems on your own? Form some solidarity with like-minded colleagues. Approaching management might feel less overwhelming when you have a “team” who shares your views.

It doesn’t have to be an overtly confrontational discussion. Do your best to frame your concerns in a positive way by sharing with your supervisor that you want to be more productive at work, but certain problems sometimes get in the way.

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Final Thoughts

If your supervisor truly cares about the well-being of the organization, they will take your concerns seriously and actively take part in changing the toxic work environment into something more conducive to productivity.

If not, then it might be time to consider the cost of the job on your well-being and personal life. Is it worth staying just for your resume’s sake? Or could you consider a “bridge” job that allows you to exhale for a bit, even if it doesn’t “move you ahead” the way you planned?

It might not be the ideal situation, but your mental health and well-being are too important to ignore. And when you have the opportunity to refuel, you’ll be a far more valuable asset at whatever amazing job you land next.

More Tips on Dealing With a Toxic Work Environment

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

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