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Entering the (Executive) Lion's Den

November 06    |    Brad Holst

Meeting with senior executives can be scary.
I’ve listened to hundreds of business and technical professionals talk about their fear of presenting recommendations to senior executives.  Sometimes the horror stories aren’t even their own, but ones that have been passed along by others.

While some of these stories are corporate urban legends, their collective impact causes many people to feel like they're being sent into the proverbial lion’s den whenever they have to present to senior executives. 

There's good reason to be wary.

Senior executives are bombarded by meetings and presentations every day. And, most executives react quickly and strongly if they think their time is being wasted.

If you could get inside their heads just before you begin your presentation, you might hear things like:

  • “I hope they came prepared this time.”
  • “Do they really need to talk to me about this?”
  • “If I have to look at one more PowerPoint slide…“ 

Find the thorn.

But perhaps the loudest thought you'd hear is: “Please… just help me be successful.”

All the senior executives that I’ve ever met have a number of very tough problems they're tasked with solving. Remember the fable Androcles and the Lion? These issues are like thorns stuck in the lion’s paw — causing worry, discomfort and even festering pain.

For you to not only survive, but thrive in the lion’s den, you must discover a clear and compelling link between your recommendation and a particular “thorn” the executive needs help with.

Pull it out.

When Androcles pulled the painful thorn from the lion’s paw, something magical happened.  Instead of getting eaten alive (a common fear when presenting to senior executives), he gained a powerful friend and ally for life. 

Like Androcles, you need to remove the thorn. When you can credibly describe how acting on your recommendation will lessen an executive's pain or make his or her job easier, you'll see that scary lion transform into a career-building advocate.


Do you want to reduce the fright factor for your team and make presenting to senior executives less scary? Discover what it takes to successfully present and sell ideas to the corner office – whether inside or outside your organization. Learn about Mandel's Presentation, Influence, and Collaboration Training.


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