how to speak to your boss

How to Report to the CEO Like a Genius

There are some silver-tongued people out there. They can speak clearly and persuasively to anyone. They are clear & concise, even when speaking to their boss and in other high-stakes situations. And they’re highly influential while they’re doing it.

But how did they get that way? Were they born with the gift of gab? 

Sure some people are naturally more adept at communicating with others. But everyone who’s a persuasive, charismatic communicator has learned the specific techniques and put them to practice.

Thinking your ideas and speaking them are 2 different things.

One thing that continues to shock me is how many people think they should be extraordinary communicators without learning any of the techniques necessary to become an incredible communicator! 

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They actually feel shame and self-loathing that they’re not amazing communicators. That everyone wants to be as good as their fav TED talker is a given. But folks don’t know that those TED talkers merely learned and practiced the techniques.

Meanwhile people spend so much time editing their writing but their speech should just come out like magic!

how to speak to your boss

How to speak to your boss.

A little bit of preparation & discipline will produce life-changing results.

  1. Prepare your message.
  2. Bottom-line your message.
  3. Use short sentences with pauses.
  4. Be relaxed.
  5. Use an authoritative, confident voice.
  6. Eliminate passive terminology.
  7. Be concise.

Let’s dive in!

Why it's hard to report to the boss.

One reason is, the boss is not living and breathing your wheelhouse. You’ve been hired to do your job; your boss does her job. 

She doesn’t know IT, marketing, or finance as you do. Not even close. That’s the beauty of each department; they work in conjunction. If only they could communicate! Now we can.

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So, determining the specific information necessary to provide the boss takes a bit of work.

The act of thinking your thoughts isn’t the same as the act of conveying them. The process is different. With practice, it’ll become second nature.

Another reason it’s harder to speak to your boss is fight or flight. The stakes are higher when you are reporting to the boss.

Speaking to the boss is a high-stakes situation.

Another reason it’s hard to report to your boss is that speaking in high-stakes situations is generally hard. It’s hard to even think straight, let alone convey the crystallized ideas in your mind.

Remember a high-stakes situation is one where you have a desire for a particular outcome, but where the outcome is not guaranteed. You want it, but you’re not sure if you’re going to get it!

When you go to a restaurant and order food, you are not afraid that your food won’t come to your table. But there’s a lot at stake when you talk to the boss. You want respect, and you want your ideas to be accepted.

You have to learn to articulate the thoughts in your head into words. And that’s harder than you’ve been taught to think.

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Want to be more influential? We all want to communicate our most important messages in a way that encourages others to take action. Whether that action is voting for our candidate or picking up milk from the store, the words we use and how we speak play a huge role in getting the job done.

Practice your report aloud.

You’ve been taught to think that you should just be able to speak your mind like Winston Churchill giving a speech. And if you don’t you must be an eejit!

Well, that’s just not true. You can’t merely think a thought & then say it aloud just as beautifully as it sounded in your head!

Great speakers have worked on their ability to speak. They’ve worked using techniques like relaxation and breathing. 

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Be relaxed & breathe deeply.

You can’t just say, “OK I’m going to be relaxed and breathe deeply.” If you merely make the statement it never happens when you need it! But this continues to be the prevalent advice out there in the interwebs.

Instead, you actually have to practice it. I recommend 3x/day for 3 weeks. The results are truly life-changing. Think about it: a few minutes a day for a few weeks and you’ll be speaking confidently and persuasively to your boss! 

Your relationship will significantly improve! Your comfort level at work will be where it always should have been 🙂

You have to learn how to speak clearly. And then you have to practice speaking clearly in the various speaking situations of your life. 

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You're not going to say it well enough the first time, so don't make the first time with your boss.

Then you need to practice your specific message. You’re not going to say it mellifluously the first time (nobody does), so why make the first time in front of your boss? 

Make the first time on your own in front of the mirror. Or when you’re reading to your kids. Or when talking to your dog.

Then you’re guaranteed to sound much better the next time you say it.

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How to speak to your boss.

  1. Prepare your message. Practice it aloud with a recorder. The conclusions you draw in your mind don’t translate directly to speech.

    The first time you say it is going to sound terrible, you’re going to hate it. Would you rather make the first time you say it the time you say it to your boss?

    Nobody was born doing anything perfectly. Communicating is the hardest thing humans do. If you don’t practice that what’s worth practicing? Beethoven had a piano coach all his life.  

  2. Bottom-line your message. Don’t give the technical details relevant to your role. (If the CEO understood IT, he wouldn’t need to hire a CTO.)

    When my clients roleplay with me they usually start with, “Today I’d like to discuss the results and the next quarter goals for the XYZ project.” It takes so long for people to know what you’re even going to speak about! Instead, start with, “XYZ project. Results: Goals:”  

  3. Use short sentences with pauses. Dastardly run-on sentences confuse the listener.
  4. Be relaxed. Nervousness causes mistakes, makes you use too many words, and talk too fast.
  5. Use an authoritative voice. One that isn’t whingy or goes up at the end. And one that isn’t tight in the throat. If your voice is tight and in your throat, it indicates that you’re on the fight-or-flight spectrum and not relaxed. Relaxation is key.
  6. Eliminate passive terminology like “I believe..” and “well, just, etc.” It undermines you and takes away your power. And you need your power to succeed.
how to speak to your boss

So congrats on your C-Level role! You deserve it. Just know that there was no real communication skills training in your firm. You’ve learned your craft to a fare-thee-well but now on to communicating your important messages!

You don’t have to go it alone. Let me know if you need help. I’m here for you.

Prepare your message and be relaxed.

It continues to shock me when people think that just thinking a thought gives them all they need to convey it aloud in high-stakes situations.

It’s especially shocking when they’ve encountered so many examples throughout their lives of not being able to do it.

I mean, how many times have ordinary, intelligent people drawn a blank during a presentation or Q & A? Or they starting speaking too fast at the wrong moment?

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Thinking a thought doesn't give you all you need to convey it aloud in high-stakes situations.

Thinking a thought isn’t currency for speech.

Just as you wouldn’t write a presentation without editing it, heck, sometimes we edit emails. “Ooh, does that sound rude?” “Oh, that doesn’t seem as professional as it should.”

Many people are frequently interrupted when they speak but proper preparation can help you convey your message effectively. 

So be sure to practice your ideas aloud. And let the first production be awful! Just keep editing and self-assessing. Your effort will pay off in spades.

Here’s how to prepare & convey your message for success in just 15 minutes per day.

You don’t have to go it alone. Let me know if you need help. I’m here for you.

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An Introduction to Accent Reduction

This brief introduction will get you started on the road to speaking Standard American English.

Eliminate passive and non-essential wording.

Remove “As I said before…” or “Again…” out of your speech altogether. It’s condescending and provides zero information. 

Record yourself speaking off-the-cuff and listen for non-essential words. Then rewrite your core message, just the facts, Jack.

Remember, I can do this for you & with you. Curating messages and tailoring them to be spectacular isn’t in many peoples’ wheelhouse.

Don’t do it alone! It’s as if I was going to try to do my own IT department! Hahahaha! What a laugh that would be!

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how to speak to your boss

So guess what? You weren’t born that way! You aren’t destined to be a fast talker or someone who draws a blank or uses too many words. You merely haven’t learned & practiced the techniques.

All those charming, authoritative folks who exhibit executive presence you know learned the steps necessary to convey their message in all high-stakes situations. And they’ve refined their verbal brand.

Speech Pathology school is a thing.

When I finished grad school and started working as a Speech-Language Pathologist at a school, my friends would pull me aside and ask me privately why they couldn’t get their message across at meetings. 

I was confused as to why they were asking me, but I taught them to be relaxed (which I learned in undergrad is the foundation of confidence and excellent speech!) to segment their ideas. And that was a new beginning for me. 

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I learned what I was meant to do. I know I’m quite fortunate. 

The fact is that no one teaches you how to make small talk, introduce yourself and speak in high-stakes situations. Shouldn’t we learn this in school? Instead, schools teach you to be petrified of speaking and to hate small talk!

So please stop feeling alone! Everyone has difficulty communicating! Everyone has to work on it! And as soon as you do, you’ll reap the benefits!

How to Improve Your Communication Skills at Work

What if your boss is the CEO?

You made it! You’ve had a successful career so far, and now you report to the CEO! There have been ups & downs and plenty of challenges, but you’ve worked hard, and here you are. Reporting to the CEO.

But somehow, the CEO doesn’t understand everything you tell him. And he wants you to talk faster and get to the point, making it even more challenging. That you’re a genius is already established. You speak to your team, report to other C-level folks with satisfactory results. Why is it so hard to report to the CEO?

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10 thoughts on “How to Report to the CEO Like a Genius”

  1. The act of thinking your thoughts isn’t the same as saying then. Brilliant! I’ve never heard this before but it makes perfect sense.
    I appreciate you, Ita.

  2. It is so important to have a confident and authoritative voice. Stop making your opinion sound like a question! Great advice!

  3. Guilty! I’m one of those people that often think I can convey a message perfectly just because I thought it and as I’m sure you’d expect, I’m hardly ever happy with how I deliver the messages. You’ve shown that there is so much more to it! Thank you Ita

    1. Don’t feel bad! It’s something about our society that doesn’t encourage people to improve their communication skills. It’s as if they want people to be ineffective!

      Thanks for the note! Keep up the good work & let me know if you need help 🙂

  4. I’m fine with my team meetings, most 🙂 client meetings, but I know that the way to being a successful and indispensable employee is to build a better relationship with my CEO. I didn’t really put it together that I could do that with my communication skills. I report to him directly and he always makes me nervous. He always wants me to speed up and get to the point and then I just seem to blather on even more. I’m going to try these tricks!
    Thank you for an informative article.

  5. I never quite knew what the problem was, but now I see it’s my communication skills. My relationship with my CEO is a bit strained, and I now see why. I go in with good intentions but then I ruin it with extra details and being too wordy. This post provides excellent details like not going into technical details pertaining to your role or using passive terminology. I’ll surely keep that in mind in preparation for my next meeting with my CEO. I really hope things get better.

  6. Being passive was my major problem whenever I talked with my CEO. Phrases like “ETC” “I think so” were the problems I faced. But thanks to you now I know how can I report to him like a genius👍

  7. I am guilty of alot of the things you pointed out here. I tend to be very formal in my writings /presentions , I need to learn the art of curating and elimating filler words as much as possible.

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