How To Impress An Executive

He was sitting in for his boss at the executive’s staff meeting. He followed her leadership blog so he had a sense of what’s in her head.

She had just written about how to make the most of a temporary seat at the table. He followed her formula. Good start.

There was one vital topic her team was debating. The issue was complex, so they decided to do some more work and revisit the following week. He listened intently, but didn’t say much. 

On Sunday he emailed her (and the team) a carefully thought-out proposal, neatly articulated in Powerpoint. Strategic, subtle, ambitious.

She arranged for follow-up call to discuss further. Another seat at the table. Before the meeting he stakeholdered the model with her right hand expert whom she had invited to the meeting as well.

This guy was impressed and validated his strategy and thinking. Her right hand then invited him to partner on all future meetings on the topic. Yup, more seats at more tables. She asked questions about the model, but also about him.

Executive: What other aspects of the business are you most interested in learning (this was substantially outside of his normal responsibilities).

Impressive Guy: “All. I want to learn as much as I can.” And then some examples along with how his experience would add value in those arenas (think elevator speech in action).

Executive:  Hmm…the next step would be negotiations with a lot of key players. How do you do when you buy a car.

Impressive Guy: Actually, I do quite well. You see, I owned my own business before I came to this corporation. I had to negotiate contracts and other tough situations all the time confidence, well timed.

I’m impressed. I asked for permission to share his story which has only just begun.

Posted in Career & Learning, Communication.

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was recently named on Inc's list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association's 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the author of 3 books: Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak.


  1. I’ve always believed attitude trumps aptitude. This is magnified if a leader is willing to admit they don’t know everything. Your “impressive guy” is a great example of what we can become when we are teachable and willing to admit we need to learn more. Everyone wants the “impressive guy” on their team, so good luck in developing him past yourself (if this was a personal story). Awesome way to start a Monday!

  2. Questions I may ask in my head: “Will you develop others?” “What are your motives?” “Will you know the difference between attending and leading?” and a selfish consideration: “Make sure you are not wasting my time.”

    I am not at “The Table,” but I can visualize your new leader and the established order. The Table is about grooming others to take our place. There is no magic formula, but when you feel the right fit, it is your gift to the new leader and to yourself to yourself to go for it.

  3. Love this story, Karin! What impresses me as a leader? I can remember a valued team member that I knew I could rely on to flesh out and get done our most complex tasks. What stood out about her is that she would often come back to me and say “Alli, I did what you asked and here it is. I also saw an opportunity and ran some more analysis. Here’s what I found and here’s what I think we should do…” She saw something that made her curious, took the initiative and had an opinion.

  4. I take notice when someone can bring something to that table that is unique and adds value. That impresses me because it indicates they are thinking on their own and have the confidence to actually deliver on what they are thinking. Coach-ability and the deep desire to learn are also key attributes that I look for. Lastly, is the desire to have a seat at the table the result of pure ambition or rather, the passion to deliver value to the team? I make sure to look for this.

  5. Great post, Karin. Today I finished writing a presentation on how the most prominent criteria a person makes his/her decision to buy a car actually reflects a lots about his personality profile. I do not see this post much different.
    I wish an employee to get delighted when fails to stand up and “steer up”, regardless of the awkward driving conditions of the business.
    Well, time to apply the brake

  6. It’s hard to find ambitious, hard-working, motivated people. Sometimes, it takes just ONE person to make a (positive) difference in an organization. Similarly, it only takes one bad person to destroy everything you’ve built.

    I’m glad when someone finds the right one.

  7. Great discussion thread here, and thanks for providing such an inviting atmosphere for folks to share. I am impressed by humble intelligence…people who are bright, innovative, and inquisitive but offer their wisdom with a good dose of humility and not hubris. Enough already, of those who spout their accomplishments and spend all their time trying to impress…

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