I was recently asked to prepare a presentation to give to some super senior executives.

Naturally this made me a bit sweaty, but also a little excited about the opportunity to be able to talk face to face with some of the mystery men and women driving our business.

So I started by asking a bunch of questions including:

‘How long should the presentation be? I have a 20 minutes presentation already that will give them a decent understanding of what we are doing and why, or are they after more of an over view?’

‘Give them a 5 minute overview’ came the answer.

On the morning of the presentation there was more sweating (from me), a bit of a speech and some clapping (from them) then the executives were given a tour of the floor before coming to find about specific projects.

Before my turn I was told ‘They are running behind, so keep it brief’

‘That’s ok, it’s a 5 minute presentation.’ I replied.

‘No – make it shorter…’

The sweating went up another notch.

I’d condensed a 2 month project down into a 15 minute presentation, reduced this to 5 minutes, and was now being told it had to be even shorter when the executives were moments away.

I got through it, but during the rest of the day as the nerves and sweating settled down my anger and resentment built up.

I’d spent around 3 hours preparing, scripting, creating slides, setting up a workstation, doing practise runs and the executives couldn’t give me 5 minutes.

This felt like a missed opportunity. They put aside time in their very busy diaries to come and engage with the people on the ground making their business ideas and priorities a reality, and they wasted it.

Maybe the massive wet patches on my underarms were something to do with it, but I didn’t even get eye contact from 2 out of 3 of them.

I realise that on a day to day basis people at this super senior level don’t need to get into the low level detail of projects (even though they are paying for it), but if they made time as a special event then why wouldn’t they bloody well use it?

The team would have preferred them not to come at all rather than stand there distracted and disinterested.

Yes they were physically there, they smiled, they touched us, they spoke to us, but totally the wrong message was passed down that day. One that didn’t match the words spoken. One that said that we weren’t important enough to make real time for. One that said that they had other places to be and their minds were already there.

The executives must work under huge pressure and scrutiny every day, where everyone wants a piece of them and there’s a constant stream of meetings and decision making.

They need minds that work at a fast pace as they rush from one thing to another mentally and physically, and it must be very hard for them to slow down when needed.

But what I learnt from all of this was that:

  • If you schedule time to spend with people, then you should give them that time (even if it’s only 5 minutes)
  • It could be perceived as disrespectful and may cause anxiety if you ask someone to prepare X then ask them to deliver Y at very short notice
  • If what you do and what you say don’t match up, then you loose integrity
  • It’s important to be present. Wherever you physically are – make sure you are mentally focused and actively engaged with what is going on (else why bother?)
  • I sweat quite a lot

See you next week.




  1. I’m old enough to remember when it wasn’t unheard of for companies to actually invest in their people. You know, that mythical concept called training. Well I’m living proof that it did exist once.

    Back in the day I was fortunate enough to be provided with management/leadership training. As a budding young Manager I was regularly sent on training courses to hone my soft skills in “managing” people.

    Amongst the things I was taught was to have an open door policy and to packup.

    The open door policy was easy, because I didn’t have a office or a door. I had an open cube. It was a corner cube, a bit larger then everyone else’s, and a little more private, but open. Anyone could walk up to me at any time, and people regularly did.

    Then their was packing up. What this means is that if someone came to my cube and said they wanted to talk, especially if it was someone who worked for me, that the only answer I had was yes. I would pack up what ever I was doing, and focus all my attention on them, making them feel like they were the most important in my world. There was nothing else more important for me to attend to then them.

    And yes eye contact was compulsory – I practiced that during the role play 🙂

    So what’s the point of this story from my archives? Well since learning this and leaving that particular company I have seldom come across Managers who do this. I’m a consultant so I get to see a lot of companies, and the standard of Management is generally pretty poor. They just don’t have these soft skills. My guess is that they have never been taught. The other observation, is that higher up you go the less skill you see.

    Which leads to the question, how do these people get to such dizzy heights? The answer is straight forward. They manage upwards, yes they suck up 🙂

    I was invited out for a drink with a CEO and his executive leadership team recently, and it was sickening to see these grown men trying to ingratiate themselves with the guy at the top 🙂 It was like a scene out of a gangster movie, with the hoodlums sucking up to the boss. What was even more frightening was that the boss knew it, and actively encouraged this behaviour. Letting them know who was in favour and who wasn’t.

    Values – Back in the day there was still a belief that work could be a noble thing, some kind of service to society, and that organisations had a responsibility to serve their customers whilst promoting the wellbeing of their employees.

    No one believes that any more. Work is about getting paid, and getting to the top is about joining the 1% who get paid a zillion times more then everyone else.

    Given these values it would be better if companies dropped the pretence. Pretending to care about the people who are actually creating the huge bonuses for the 1% at the top when you clearly don’t only makes things worst.

  2. so true, keep it up!
    Less sweating on a Friday hopefully? 😉

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