Presentations to Stakeholders and C-Suite Executives | BridgeBetween.com

Tips for Effective Presentations to Stakeholders and C-Suite Executives

It’s not the same ballgame as a project update for team leaders!

Yes, giving presentations to stakeholders can be a little nerve-wracking. You want to make sure you set the right tone and deliver the appropriate content to achieve whatever purpose the presentation serves. It’s also important to see these events as opportunities to be noticed by senior level executives. Good presentations to stakeholders will help cement your position and possible growth opportunities!

Be clear about your audience

Strong public speaking skills can be very helpful. And, when it comes to the content of a presentation, knowing your audience is key. The CEO may not be interested in operational level details or want to understand the intricacies of the project at a micro level. Your content needs to be geared to the audience you are delivering to.

Most executives are more interested in the macro level, like:

  • Where the project is on the projected timeline
  • How much it’s going to cost at the end
  • How will it be implemented
  • What is the overall return on investment

The details of HOW you get there on a day to day basis aren’t irrelevant to the senior level, but they typically don’t need a presentation on these.

Make sure you find out who will be in attendance and whether they have their own agenda to be taken into consideration. This is a good time to tap other team leaders who have presented to the executive group before for advice!

Be specific

If you’re being asked to present to the C-Suite on the projected return on investment and participation levels, don’t start talking about human resources issues, or other items that weren’t specifically requested. Executives don’t have a lot of time on their hands so wasting any of it will not result in a favorable view of your skills.

 

“Assembling five C-level leaders from a $5 billion company costs shareholders $30,000 per hour. CEO’s report that 67 percent of the meetings they attend with subordinates are total failures—resulting in a huge productivity loss for the company.” (SOURCE)

 

Also, when making presentations to stakeholders, skip the dramatic lead up to the most important part of your presentation and get to the meat of it, right off the top. People with limited time will appreciate your getting to the point.

Be prepared

Even if you were asked to present on a particular topic or area of a project, be prepared to answer questions that aren’t specifically on that topic. You have an audience with the decision makers so make sure that you can handle what they throw at you. Don’t lie, though, or make things up. There’s no way to dig yourself out of that kind of mistake.

Be confident

This is part of being prepared. If you’re ready for questions and queries — without shuffling paper, avoiding eye contact, and doing a lot of excessive hemming and hawing — you will come off confident and knowledgeable.

For ANY audience, but even more so with the C-Suite, confidence breeds confidence. They’ll lend more weight to your statements if they feel you know what you’re talking about. Content is still the most important part but delivery, and particularly poor delivery, can hurt the message.

Be respectful of the clock

If you’ve been given thirty minutes, don’t exceed it. Time your presentation to allow for a question and answer session afterward. It’s important to respect the clock and people’s time. Practice your presentation beforehand, several times.

Finally, remember that stakeholders and C-Suite executives are just people who put on their pants like all the rest of us do: one leg at a time. They’re not gods and while they might have some input into your corporate fate, they’re not to be feared.

Ultimately, you all have the same goals: the success of the project and the company. So keep that in mind, get ready and knock it out of the park!

Is it Possible to Have Influence Without Direct Authority? | BridgeBetween.com

Is it Possible to Have Influence Without Direct Authority?

Yes, but a few key ingredients are necessary!

You’re running a new team for a project but that project requires the participation of individuals who are in other business silos, within the company. In other words, you’re running a team that is comprised of people who don’t actually report to you, on a normal day. So how do you have influence over them without having direct authority?

The idea of running a team without a standard hierarchy is a more common occurrence than people think. Changes to corporate structures where a flatter, more ‘universal’ style are now being embraced.

The key to being able to effectively work with a team like this, among other factors, is credibility. If you have it, you will have influence. It’s as simple as that. You can’t just be proclaimed leader by an even higher power and expect people to follow who are, at the very least, in a lateral position, or possibly even higher.

Types of influence

Your title is not your influence. It’s just a name given from an external and higher authority. It doesn’t confer any real influence on you with your team. Instead, influence is made up of other things, the most important of which is credibility.

  • Credibility — This is influence that comes because of your abilities and your experience. More will be said about how to build this up, below.
  • Informational — This is the kind of influence you can exert because you are ‘in the know’. You have a deep understanding of the organization, how things work, who knows what and how you can leverage that information.
  • Relationships — You are well connected with larger networks that your team sees as valuable to their overall success.

How do you build up credibility?

  1. Meet expectations. Learn what others expect of you and meet those standards. It’s not always easy to discern what others are expecting—we’re not mind readers, after all! But it’s important to find out what key members of the team are expecting so that you can work towards those goals.
  2. Do what you say you’re going to do. There is nothing worse than individuals who talk a good game and say they’re going to accomplish XYZ, only to find out that they can barely accomplish X. Set reasonable expectations and limits so that you can not only meet but exceed them!
  3. Communicate clearly. As much as you need to learn what others expect of you, you need to clearly communicate what you expect from them. Everyone needs to be on the same page, with no confusion, as to what they’re supposed to do.
  4. Use feedback wisely. Good, constructive feedback is essential to building credibility. When someone isn’t meeting the expectations you set out, it’s vital to call them on it. Like calling someone’s bluff, you can build a tremendous amount of credibility by being on top of your own requirements.

 

“Your credibility is your on-ramp to greater influence with others, and it’s too important to be left to chance.” (SOURCE)

 

Essential skills for influencing a team without direct authority

Beyond credibility, there are some essential skills that a leader needs in order to be effective:

  • Networking — The ability to network with a wide variety of people within and outside of your team will help you achieve the influence you need. There is a feeling of reciprocity that develops when you are able to connect people who need to know each other. You have social currency that others want (social, in the sense of team and position, not social standing in society!)
  • Team-within-a-team building — If you are able to successfully get the backing of key people on the team, people who are essential to the success of the team, you will have more influence over the rest.
  • Negotiation — Ensuring that everyone sees decision-making as mutually beneficial is the key to successful negotiation among peers. It’s not about getting what YOU want. It’s about getting something for everyone.

These are skills that are separate from credibility but still emanate from it. You can’t negotiate with people, no matter how skilled you are at it in theory, if you don’t have credibility with the people with whom you are negotiating.

Work on building up your credibility as well as the skills you need to support it. You’ll likely find any team easier to inspire!

Risk Taking | BridgeBetween.com

Risk Taking: How to Encourage Growth on Your Team

Whether you call it risk taking or innovation, growth comes from moving forward, not standing still!

Taking risks in business is hard enough; allowing your team to do it with only minimal intervention on your part? That is harder still! But it’s risk taking and creative innovation that encourages team growth, not stagnation., so one of your roles as a leader is to push your team to take a little risk.

So, one of your roles as a leader is to push your team to take a little risk.

Risk doesn’t have to be reckless

If you want to encourage your team to grow and innovate, you have to give them clear parameters within which they are allowed to do so.

Whether that involves defining how much money can be spent in the pursuit of a new business track or creates boundaries on decision making and the point they need to involve you or a process of review, smart risk taking isn’t without limits.

Just be sure that your limits aren’t in fact so constraining that innovation isn’t ever going to be a part of the picture. A little discomfort and out of the box thinking is what propels people, and companies, forward.

Create a safe place for your team to take calculated risks

People will take risks if they know that they aren’t putting their necks — and their jobs — on the line. Fear is probably the greatest barrier to innovation.

Instead, you have to create a safe environment where your team clearly understands that despite everything done to mitigate problems, innovation comes with …well, risk!

Learning from mistakes or failure is essential. Whatever your team is attempting could all go very wrong. Or, it could all go very right. Either way, your ability to create a culture that includes accepting failure is the only way to encourage team members who fail to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and strive for more.

Either way, your ability to create a culture that includes accepting failure is the only way to encourage team members who fail to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and strive for more.

Model the behavior you expect to see

You can’t create a culture that encourages risk if you don’t engage in the behavior yourself. Leadership is all about walking the walk, not just talking the talk, so while you might fall flat on your face in attempting a little risk taking, playing it safe won’t motivate anyone.

As a member of the team yourself, you need to involve others in your decisions and demonstrate how you intend to take on and mitigate risks for the best possible outcome. Clear communication is fundamental to creating the right environment for growth.

Don’t just reward success

While there’s no question of giving everyone a ribbon ‘just for coming out’, it is important to reward successes AND failures. Not just any failure, of course, but ones that come from a strong attempt and smart risk taking.

If failure is not only tolerated but even praised for the goals that a team member was trying to achieve, others are more likely to take a step towards a little risk themselves. A team member need only understand that their career growth won’t be stunted by a failure.

And, in fact, might be improved by one, to decide that it is something they’re willing to engage in.

You can take it as far as celebrating the mistakes or failures, literally! Putting it out in the open and having the whole team own a failure creates some of that safety that individuals will be looking for.

Remember, not every failure is a categorical mistake. There is always something that can be learned and always some positive side effect that can be leveraged, if only that your team feels free to try again.

Hope for the best, plan for the worst

Part of mitigating risk is figuring out the worst case scenario in any given plan. If your team learns to look at all the possible consequences and assign relative value over risk to them, they will quickly be able to judge what is a smart risk or innovation and what isn’t.

That’s part of their growth as a team, and the company as a whole, which will help propel everyone forward, as time goes by.

However you inspire your team towards innovation, remember that nobody wins the game by playing it safe all the time. There are times for risk and there are times for safety: your job as a leader is to have a clear vision for both so that you can encourage your team in the right direction.

Quality Team Feedback | BridgeBetween.com

Providing Quality Feedback to a Team

Getting your feedback message across, without being negative, is the key!

Feedback is VERY important when running a team. Regular feedback lets team members know how their work is being perceived and whether they are on the right track.

But the very idea of receiving feedback can be upsetting to some, as their past experiences might equate ‘feedback’ with ‘ripping a person to shreds’. It can make people defensive and nervous, so it’s important to handle it carefully.

Team members have to hear it for feedback to work

In order to be effective, feedback must first be heard. This might sound silly, but badly delivered feedback is often misconstrued in its meaning or intent and ends up being of little use to the recipients.

What is badly delivered feedback?

Where only negative feedback is provided, without the inclusion of anything positive. Team members are less likely to listen to it, or act on it, if it’s totally negative.

  • Where feedback is judgemental. Is the feedback delivered in ways where the receiver feels ‘unsafe’, as if it is intended to make them look incompetent or as a personal judgment?
  • Where the leader is not clear and forthright. If the feedback is purposely vague out of fear of confrontation or a poor reaction, it can have a negative impact overall.
  • When the feedback is not specific. This is similar to the previous point in that confusion is the result for the team, instead of useful information that they can take on board.
  • Where feedback is not productive. If the feedback only serves to take people down and doesn’t provide a platform for growth and confidence building, it’s not good feedback.

Related: Team Communication: How to Speak So Your Team Will Listen

Qualities you need to give feedback effectively

As a leader, your feedback will be more readily taken on board if you have these qualities: authority, credibility and trustworthiness.

If you have the authority to provide the feedback, in that you are the right person to be doing it in the structure of your team, you are more likely to be heard. Peer to peer feedback CAN work in some circumstances but most people on a team see themselves as equal and are reluctant to take criticism from someone they don’t consider as being in a leadership role.

Authority also comes with time. A brand new leader of a team may not be speaking with authority when they give feedback due simply to the fact that they haven’t interacted with the team long enough to be in the know.

Credibility is important in that if you don’t know your subject matter and you are unfamiliar with the team, you won’t have much credibility with them, and nor will your feedback.

Finally, trustworthiness comes down to that element of safety, mentioned earlier. Feedback given in the right circumstances and environment builds trust and a solid working relationship. If the team members feels that the feedback given will be shared inappropriately or otherwise misused, it won’t be heard.

Five essentials when giving feedback

  1. Be positive!
  2. Be specific!
  3. Be timely! (Giving feedback on something that happened six months ago isn’t particularly helpful!)
  4. Be clear!
  5. Be conversational! (Make it a conversation, not a commandment. Allowing the team to respond and discuss the feedback is important.)

Related: How to Get Your Team to Speak Up

Following up is another essential key in providing feedback. Giving it and then just leaving it out there, without a time frame for following up to see if it was heard/implemented, isn’t helpful to you or your team. This is a chance for you to give positive feedback when the team is doing what you requested. Don’t miss it!

If you need help to learn the subtleties surrounding the art of giving feedback, consider getting some coaching. You can learn to give even the hardest feedback clearly, without judgment and in a way that the receiver can hear and act on it.

Be True to Value Statements | BridgeBetween.com

The Importance of Being True to Value Statements

Leaders are, and should be, held to a higher standard.

It’s business fashionable to throw around words like ‘value statements’ and ‘mission’ but, in many cases, they are just empty words.

Why? Because often leaders in a company don’t actually give those terms any weight, so they become hot air instead of standard operating procedure. How does a leader give them weight?

By living them.

Case in point: Dropbox’s CEO ‘A-HA’ moment

Drew Houston, CEO at Dropbox, had his moment of understanding the importance of walking the walk when he set up an all-company meeting to address the issue of lateness. A meeting to which he was … wait for it … late.

In his mind, being two minutes late was no big deal, but that’s not how others perceived it. A fellow team member shared with him that it was, in fact, hypocritical to behave as if the rules didn’t apply to him.

Houston came to the realization that all the value statements in the world won’t make a hill of beans difference in team morale and attitude if the leadership isn’t living them, rather than just repeating them.

Show rather than tell

The best way for a leader to breathe life into value statements about the company is to live them. Like a novelist who wants to bring the reader into a new and interesting world, he has to show them the way, rather than tell them how to get there:

“To illustrate, let’s say someone stops you on the street to ask for directions. You could give the person a step-by-step route to follow, or you might draw a map, complete with street names and landmarks.

But you could also say:

“That’s not too far out of my way. Just follow me, and I’ll take you there.”

Which method do you think is the most effective?” (Source)

Communicate intentions clearly

While mission statements and value propositions might be written in the employee handbook or even on the wall at the office, the real power of these words comes from direct statements and actions of leaders.

It’s all very well and good to SAY that you value the mental health of your team members, but you have to show it too. A recent example that went viral online was an employee at Michigan tech company who sent her team an email saying that she was taking a couple of days off. The reason: for her mental health.

You might expect that the CEO of that company would be unhappy to see an email from a team member that so openly admitted to taking time off for this reason — mental health not being accepted in every organization as being a legitimate concern for employees. In this case, you would be wrong.

This was his response:

“I just wanted to personally thank you for emails like this. Every time you do, I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health—I can’t believe this is not standard practice at all organizations. You are an example to us all, and help cut through the stigma so we can all bring our whole selves to work.”

Now, that’s leadership. The employee, Madelyn, tweeted his response (with permission) and the result was overwhelming, even to the CEO, Ben Congleton. As he stated in a subsequent post at Medium.com “It’s 2017. I cannot believe that it is still controversial to speak about mental health in the workplace when 1 in 6 americans are medicated for mental health.”

Don’t create value statements you don’t believe in

That’s the bottom line. Hollow value statements are pointless and, in fact, can hurt a team’s morale when they discover how little those statements mean to the leadership of the company.

Sit down and really think about what your company is about and how you can use mission and value statements to show your team where the path to success is, rather than just pointing the way and then going in the opposite direction.