Safety and health professionals routinely make presentations to their boss, their boss’s boss, and sometimes even the CEO to gain approval for an activity or to beg for funding to initiate a new program or sustain an existing program. Too often we are met with delays, resistance and rejection.

We return to our office waiting to hear if we have gained approval. Failing to hear back, we ask our boss if a decision has been made, which leads to excuses on top of excuses. Sound familiar?

Dan Rockwell, on his Leadership Freak blog, featured Mike Myatt’s top ten ways to tick off CEOs.1 Mike is the chief strategy officer for N2growth. Here are the top ten tick-offs, and how to avoid them:

1 — Wasting the boss’s time

When is the best time of the day to make a presentation?

Never put yourself in a position where you are unprepared to make a presentation to management, because you will never get a second chance to waste your boss’s time. If you are not prepared, ask for an extension. Don’t wing it; you’ll invariably make mistakes and fail to clearly answer questions. Most individuals who have reached these levels in an organization possess a sixth sense as to when a presenter is improvising and some even delight in playing mind games with the presenter. As far as when is the best time to make a presentation to your boss, the answer is in my ISHN column “Five o’clock fatigue.”2

2 — Presenting spin and half-truths

Do I have all the facts straight?

As a subject matter expert, make sure the facts of your story are accurate and come from a reliable source. Avoid making outcome promises that you cannot guarantee (e.g., this initiative will reduce our injury rate by 50 percent).

3 — Serving up opinions as facts

Have I scrubbed out all opinions, or at least clarified my opinions as opinions?

When making a presentation to your boss and especially higher managers, always couch your opinions as just that, nothing more or less. If you push your opinion as fact and it turns out not to be the case, you will lose an enormous amount of credibility.

4 — Blatantly promoting yourself

Do I spread the credit enough?

More often than not presentations for senior management involve a number of different people and perspectives. Make sure you spread the credit for at least two reasons: 1) it shows you are a team player; and 2) it can add credibility for you and your topic based on whom you involved in preparing the presentation.

5 — Offering ideas not in alignment with corporate values and vision

Is the idea/initiative legal and does it align with the current direction of the company?

Is the company undergoing a transformation resulting in a new direction?  For example, advocating a behavior-based safety program for a manufacturing plant scheduled to be shuttered, which is not common knowledge. Inquire about what the business’s plans are before pushing an idea that will never see the light of day.

6 — Disregarding corporate culture

Can the idea/initiative come to fruition in your corporate culture?

Corporate cultures range from being chaotic to agile. Before advocating a new idea/initiative, assess the current state of your company’s culture, interview people in positions of knowing, and decide whether or not your company’s culture is ready for your grand idea.

7 — Overlooking resourcing realities

Have you realistically accounted for the necessary resources, both human and capital?

If your audience is at all interested in your idea, be prepared to accurately portray the associated costs in human effort and capital. Never assume your idea is so great that the company will throw more money and people at it to make it happen.

8 — Poor timing

Do other issues need to be addressed first?

If your audience is in the midst of negotiating a merger or responding to a major accident event, in all likelihood you won’t secure the appointment to make your presentation. Let’s say you do get the appointment. My advice to you, cancel or postpone the presentation to a more receptive time unless, of course, the presentation is directly relevant to the current issues management is handling. Also, know the budgeting cycle in your company (e.g., calendar or fiscal year cycle). Usually it is not a good idea to push for a new program in the fourth quarter.

9 — Lack of impact awareness across the enterprise

Will it be positive or negative?

Endorsements from individuals held in high regard by your audience will add credibility to the idea/initiative. If your audience likes your idea/initiative, they are going to want to know what certain others in the organization think. Be prepared to answer the question right then and there rather than having to wait and possibly go through another meeting for approval.

10 — Proposing all strategy and no tactics and vice-versa

What steps need to happen to deliver the strategy?

Sweat the details; they make all the difference. Most CEOs are interested in details versus big picture visions, especially when they have to commit money and people. Consider possible setbacks or detours you may encounter along the way. Create contingencies to overcome them. Be sure to raise these possibilities in your presentation along with the steps you plan to take to counter the diversions. Your audience will appreciate the thought that has gone into your strategy.




1 Rockwell, D. Top 10 Ways to Tick Off CEOs. Leadership Freak. February 2, 2012.

2 Leemann, J.E. Five o’clock fatigue – How a day of decisions drains mental energy. Industrial Safety & Hygiene News. November 2011. Pg. 18.