Situation 40: Standing your ground

Femsy presents a proposal in the Management Meeting. She knows her material inside and out since she spent a lot of time researching the feasibility and its impact on the company. As soon as she is questioned during the meeting she backs into “Maybe you are right”. As a result, no decision was taken about the proposal during the meeting. Boss calls Femsy into his room furiously: although Femsy was absolutely right she created a situation where it would be very hard to get the team believing in her idea.

(Click on the pictures to see them in full size)

A great leader:

  • Has self-confidence and willingly seeks challenges that stretch her;
  • Understands who the key decision-makers are for her proposals and is cognizant of their underlying motives, concerns and personal agendas;
  • Prepares and rehearses her arguments, developing multiple approaches to positively influence the outcome.

How to best handle the situation:

Prior to an important meeting, gather as much information as possible about the people who will be present and their respective roles in taking the decision on your proposal. Try to learn about their views and perspectives in relation to your ideas and consider the impact of your suggestions on their specific area: this will help you to prepare the appropriate material in a format that suits the needs of your target audience.

If time allows socialise with some key individuals in the organisation prior to the meeting. These can be participants in the meeting or other people who have strong connections with the decision-makers, are influential and can advocate on your behalf.

Practise giving your presentation to some critical friends so that you are fluent and feel confident in what you are going to say and can address potential questions that arise.

When it is your turn to make your pitch, take a few deep breaths before starting to help you calm your nerves. Take your time going through your points and make eye contact with everyone in the room. This not only signals that you are talking directly to them but also helps you get a read on their reactions; do they seem to understand what you are saying? Do they agree with you? Do they seem puzzled by some of your ideas? Are they listening attentively or bored? Noticing what is going on in the room enables you to attend to the unspoken cues and respond in an appropriate and timely manner.

Learning suggestions:

  • Review proposals and ideas that succeeded in getting approval. How were these structured – detailed report or summary presentation? What techniques did the authors use to present their ideas – walk through a presentation? Demonstrate the idea? Use an expert in the field? Which of these techniques can you adopt when submitting your own proposals?
  • Consider training and development, such as participating in assertiveness training or public speaking courses.
  • Seek help from a colleague; ask him/her to give you feedback on how you come across in meetings, particularly when presenting your ideas, and how you can improve your impact.


Seek opportunities to make presentations to senior colleagues in different fora about your ideas to hone your skills and get comfortable in communicating at that level.

 Femcommunity tips:

We welcome your thoughts, experiences and comments on how you would deal with such a situation.

Find more on our website


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s