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I graduated magna cum laude with an engineering degree from a good university and was immediately recruited as management trainee by a multi-national company.  Together with several others, also honor graduates of their respective schools, we underwent rigorous training and enculturation.  I’ve been working as assistant manager to a department head in our plant for almost three years now and I’m wondering how I am really doing  and when will I finally be promoted.  Most of my batchmates have been promoted to full managerial positions and even to executive level.  My immediate boss keeps telling me to be patient because I’d have my promotion “soon”.   The big problem is when is this “soon”? It seems I’m stuck now.  I’m so frustrated to the point of being demoralized and desperate.  What shall I do?

 Mr. When


Your impatience for promotion is brought about by the promotion of your batchmates to higher positions in the organization and your perception that your boss is not doing anything to help you in this regard.


The one who can help you assess if you are ready now for promotion is your immediate superior.  I suggest you set an appointment with him/her and ask:

  • how you have improved since your last performance appraisal
  • what are your chances for promotion or career advancement
  • why you have not been promoted.
  • how he assesses your promotability to the next level in the plant organization
  • does he/she think you are ready now


Suggested Steps To Take. However, before you have a career discussion with your boss, I suggest that you do the following:


First, be clear about your career goal.  Be able to state it in a clear, specific, measurable and achievable manner and with a time line.  Ex.  “At the end of two more years, I am promoted to department head and in another three years to Assistant Plant Manager.  My long-term goal is to be Vice President for Manufacturing.”  Do you want to remain in your current department as a possible successor to your boss?  Into what other department in the plant do you want to work?  As management trainee, you had an opportunity to work in the various functional areas in your organization, not just in your field of specialization so you would know which one matches your skills, aptitudes and career interests.

Second, as a result of your performance appraisal, ask yourself if you have addressed the areas for improvement cited by your immediate supervisor.  Have you followed up on these with him/her?   Have you improved on these areas according to his/her standards?


Third, how is you impatient attitude showing?  Sometimes our impatience is shown in complaining, griping and other verbal aggression, isolation, sulking and the like.  These never fail to reach the knowledge of upper management and work against you.  Check out your blind spot, i.e., your weaknesses that are apparent to others but not to you.


Factors to Consider for Career Advancement.  People who are promotable are not only those who have technical competencies but, equally important, they must have leadership ability (or the ability to influence others), have interpersonal skills based on respect for others, sensitivity to the needs of others,  subordinating your need to the needs of your organization, etc.  Reading books on leadership and management will be very useful to you. Do you share your knowledge and skills with those reporting to you and with your peers?   How have you coached your direct reports?   These are matters for you to consider seriously.


In addition I suggest you do the following:

  1. Read good books on personal mastery and personal leadership such as:
  • “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie
  • “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” by John Maxwell
  • “Seven Basic Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey


Reflect on these, and apply them in your life.  These will require changing your negative habits and acquiring positive habits of effectiveness.


  1. Enroll in short courses to develop your personality and your assertive communication skills.  Check out the following in the internet:
  • Dale Carnegie Institute of the Philippines
  • The Toastmasters Club


You must be open and willing to change yourself from the inside (your attitudes, paradigms and values) and out (your appearance, grooming, poise and your behaviors.


As you keep sharpening your personal and interpersonal effectiveness, I suggest you keep your options open.  Look up jobs/careers in other organizations that may be right for you.  But keep this job hunting to yourself.  Your efforts to improve yourself will work well wherever you work.


God bless you.



Josie O. Santamaria

Is it possible for a person to change his/her personality and character?  I am unhappy with myself because my subordinates do not approach me voluntarily.  My peers and their subordinates have an open communication and they seem to enjoy their interactions.  How can I change my image to my subordinates and in the company for that matter?  I don’t want to lose some of my subordinates who are talented and high potential.  Because of the serious expression of my face (I don’t have a smiling countenance), my keeping to myself, and speaking to my employees only when the topic is related to their tasks and in a business like manner, they are distant to me.  I even eat my lunch on my desk alone.  They are also formal with me and don’t come to me except when I call them.  I want to change myself to have a good relationship with my subordinates, particularly with those I want to keep.  How can I begin to change?

                                                                                    Mr. Formal Looking


Yes, you can change your personality and your character.  Your personality predisposes you to certain behaviors.  For example, your being an introvert predisposes you to want to be by yourself and to prefer to work alone.  This you can change by changing your mindset about yourself and about people i.e., you want to interact with them, and they with you, during break time instead of being by yourself.  Take your cup of coffee with you and go around saying “hello” to each of your subordinates and smiling as you do so.


Your character is the totality of your being such as being patient, kind, generous, tolerant, etc.  When you start to see people as your subordinates, as having value in the eyes of God and that the Lord expects you to love and respect them, you’ll have a different perspective.  What behaviors show respect, kindness and consideration to people?  Do these repeatedly.  Repetition of positive behavior makes this a habit.  This leads to change in your being, in your character.  “Watch your thoughts, they become your words./ Watch your words, they become your actions./ Watch your actions they become your habits./ Watch your habits they become your character./ Watch your character, it will shape your destiny.” by Frank Outlaw.  True, isn’t it?


The image people have of you depends on what they see you do and say, repeatedly.  To change the image, you have to change your behavior and do this consistently.


Steps in the Change Process:  It is easy for you to change because this is a DOY, that is, it depends on you.  The change process consists of 3 steps:  First, having a strong motivation to change.  This you now have.  Second, translate motivation into action.  Third, give yourself a pat on the back each time you do it.


For Step 2, look at yourself in the mirror and have a smiling countenance in your eyes and lips.  Practice this.  Upon waking up in the morning have a grateful heart.  Thank God that you have a job in a good company, that you have a good position and that you have people working with and for you.  A grateful disposition makes you happy.  Show this happiness in your smiling countenance.  Resolve to put on this smiling countenance the minute you enter your company.  Greet the security guard, the receptionist and then your staff.  Make sure that you look at them and that you are smiling when you greet them.  When you are able to do this, give yourself an “I did it!” smile of approval.


Instead of asking a subordinate to come to your office, go to his work area, and take a seat beside him.  Then say, “Hello, can I have a word with you?”  Then proceed to deliver your message.  Then ask, “Did I explain that clear enough?” instead of “Do you understand?” or “Is that clear?”  Then thank him for listening.  Smile when you do this.  You will feel awkward the first time you do this because this is not your usual mode of communication.  Expect also that your employees will look at each other, raise their eyebrow, and/or talk with each other about what you’ve “eaten” (“Ano kaya ang nakain?” is the usual remark.) to make you change your ways.  Be happy that they notice the changes in your behavior.


Continue to do these behaviors until they become habits with you, always congratulating yourself and feeling good about yourself that you have managed to change your ways.


Ways of Motivating and Keeping Your Employees.  The best ways of making your employees motivated and keeping all of them, not just the talented and high potentials, are the following:


  1. If you like what they did, give them a positive feedback immediately, using the I-message formula:  I + your feeling + for their behavior/their work.  Ex. “I like the way you did your report.  The data are well presented and well organized.”  Make sure that you have eye contact and are smiling while saying this.


  1. If there are errors, point them out in private.  Use also the I-message, this time looking serious.  “I’m disappointed at the late submission of your report, despite our agreement that it should be submitted on Tuesday since I need your data to make my own report that is due on Thursday morning.  I know that if you write this down in your “To Do” list for Monday, you’ll be able to submit it as agreed upon.  Then both of us will be happy.”  End the interaction on a positive note by a positive message and smiling.


For more on feedback that makes a difference.  I wrote a series of articles published in the Sunday Inquirer, Job Market Section, dated July 24-30, 2011, July 31- August 6, 2011, September 4-10, 2011 and September 11-17, 2011.  Let me know if you want these emailed to you.


  1.  Coach your subordinate to do something new, or to follow a new procedure or a new technology, or to improve on what he is doing.  Demonstrate how it should be done.  Then ask them to repeat the instruction or the procedure.  “Do you think you can show me how it’s done?”   When he is doing this, look at the person with a smile on your face and nodding your head in approval.


Then when you see improvement in his performance, give an immediate positive feedback with a smiling face.  When you don’t see any improvement, call him in private, and ask what the difficulty is.  Listen attentively.  Then repeat what you have coached him.  Then smile again.


When you do coaching, you not only develop your team member; you empower him to do some of the tasks you do, thereby minimizing your stress.


More importantly, coaching contributes to the development and strengthening of positive relationships between the leader and team members.  You gain their respect.  You enhance your self-esteem.


  1. Tell them how important their work is and how it contributes to your section’s output and goal.  Tell them how your section’s output and goal contribute to the achievement of the department’s goal, etc.  It’s important for them to see the impact of their work on the over-all goal of the company.  Recognition of their work and of their worth is a powerful motivator, and one of the important factors to work engagement.


  1. As much as possible, take your lunch break with them.  If they eat in the pantry, eat there, too.  Engage them in conversation about current events that you read about in the newspapers or see on TV.  Don’t talk about work.   Make the atmosphere relaxed.


As you do these, you will see improvements in yourself, in your subordinates’ interactions with you and in your relationships.  You have overcome the weaknesses of your character and personality.  This gives you a sense of achievement, and makes you happy.  And smiling has become a habit with you as well.


God bless you.



Josie O. Santamaria

I was helped by your 2-part article on “Feedback that Makes a Difference” (Inquirer, July 24 and July 31, 2011) because I did try to practice what you advised.  I was one supervisor who was quick to criticize but never gave any praise.  You were right that this was due to my failure to get the required stroke quota because my boss is so busy with meetings that I never receive any affirmation for my excellent work, which I know I perform.  My parents also were never given to praising us their children.  I tried giving positive feedback to a subordinate who submitted a good report.  I knew I did not give her the advised smile that you prescribed.  However, I did get a happy smile from her and it made me happy.  My daily objective now is to give at least one positive feedback to each one of my four subordinates.   I have also changed the way I give negative feedback, thanks to your advice.

 My question is:  If I always give positive feedback to every positive behavior, won’t there be satiation, such that it will no longer achieve its purpose.  As they say, “Too much of a good thing is not good.”  Thank you.

                                                                                               Mr. Trying Hard


Thank you for your positive feedback that my 2-part article has helped you.  It made me very happy.  Congratulations for your humility to accept your deficiency and for your successful efforts to apply what you have learned.  Continue to do the feedback behaviors until this becomes habitual with you and until your employees’ positive behaviors become positive habits.  Reward yourself with an “I did it!” feeling and really feeling good about yourself.  This is your intrinsic positive reinforcement since no one is likely to give you the extrinsic “pat on the back”.


I’m glad you asked about the possibility of satiation or an overdose of positive feedback.  You need to vary the recognition you give.  Recognition that becomes rote no longer motivates.  You could alternate the verbal with the non-verbal and with a written feedback.


Examples of verbal:

  • “This is a good point you made.”
  • “I like the way you put it.”
  • “This is great.”
  • “I agree with it.”


But always give the affirmation with a smile and eye contact.


For example:  If an employee who habitually comes late in reporting to work, comes before 8 a.m., you can tell her, “I see that you came in at 7:50 a.m. today.  What brought this about?” while looking at her with a smile on your face.  The next day, she comes at 7:45 a.m., you can say, “I took note of your arrival at 7:45.  I’m happy about this.” The next day she arrives at 7:55 a.m., you say to her, “OK, Jinky!

Examples of non-verbal:

  • Nod of approval given with a smile
  • Attentive listening while looking with interest at the person talking
  • Showing enthusiasm at the person’s suggestion


Examples of written feedback.  Written work submitted by an employee can also get a written commendation, such as the use of the following symbols:

ü  (check)

«  (star)





Paste a gold star on the report.


or writing on the report:

“Good!” “Great!”


“One of the best reports you’ve submitted.”


A very powerful positive reinforcement is giving a letter or e-mail of commendation for noteworthy achievement, such as a medical representative getting a prescription from a doctor who had long prescribed a competitive product.  Make sure that your boss and your boss’ boss are forwarded copies.  And, as important, the memo is in the employee’s 201 File.


My suggestions are those that can be given freely by a supervisor/manager without cost to organization.  There is of course formal recognition to celebrate milestones such as when

  • an employee earns a graduate degree
  • a sales person earns the annual award for top performance
  • a team exceeds the super target
  • etc

This article does not include such milestones that require plaques, trophies, cash rewards, trip abroad, etc.


Shift from Continuous to Intermittent Reinforcement.  When you want your employee to develop a positive habit, give him positive feedback every time he does a positive behavior.  This is continuous reinforcement.  When this positive behavior is done regularly,   switch to intermittent reinforcement or giving positive feedback at irregular intervals. This means that you give positive feedback on the third, then fifth, then eight, then back again to second, sixth, etc. that the behavior is performed.   Research by behavioral psychologists showed this method to be effective in maintaining positive behaviors and habits.


Other Types of Reinforcements

 In addition to the above one-on-one praising or verbal/non-verbal positive reinforcements, employees may be motivated by other types of reinforcements for good performance.  Examples are:

  • Making him feel he is contributing to something bigger than  his work, in fact, to the over-all mission and goal of the company.  Ex. hotel laundry workers do not just wash sheets but play a vital role in guest’ over-all hotel experience satisfaction
  • Being given an opportunity to become visible to top management such as being brought to attend a management meeting
  • Being exposed to a different function related to employee’s interest
  • Being chosen to attend a company (in-house) training event, or to attend a conference or convention without his attendance/participation being constantly interrupted by calls from his boss (you)
  • Giving him opportunity to attend public training programs to acquire/ be updated on a new technology and having him attend without being called to the office to attend to an urgent matter
  • Being consulted on specific problems in which the employee has experience or in which he has special competence
  • Involving the employee in making a decision that affects his work or his team or in matters where he has relevant expertise.
  • Giving employee participation in setting unit/team goals/objectives
  • Enabling him to be part of task forces or ad hoc committees
  • Having the employee represent the team, unit or department in a meeting
  • Being delegated certain tasks and trusting him to do them well

And don’t forget to remember to greet them on their birthdays and wedding anniversaries.  Giving a balloon or a flower on these important events can boost their self-esteem.  Surprise a star salesperson by having champagne in her room the next time she bags a big sale.  She deserves it!


Be creative in giving positive reinforcement.  If one reinforcer doesn’t work, try another.  The best way to find out which reinforcement is meaningful to him is to ask him directly “What will make you happy after doing a good performance?” and then listen to his answer.  As he talks, listen for values, needs and interest.


Shaping Positive Behaviors.  When an employee has difficulty acquiring a new behavior or performing a certain standard of performance it is important for the boss to clearly define the behavior or standard in observable terms.  Example:  Objective: to make six successful sales calls in a day following the itinerary without backtracking.  “Successful sales call” is defined as calling on the right target client and closing the sale.  The boss recognizes the right actions and corrects the wrong ones so that these are not repeated.  This is especially true for new employees or employees learning new skills or new technology.  As the employee makes progress, the boss gives immediate positive feedback.


Giving sincere positive feedback or positive reinforcement is very important to foster a strong and positive relationship between the boss and his employee.  It is the key to maintaining productivity in the workplace. Make the giving of recognition a habit.  It doesn’t cost you anything.  But it does a lot of good to a person’s morale and boosts his productivity.  And it makes you feel great!



Josie O. Santamaria

I’m a newly promoted supervisor with seven people reporting to me. I have no problem with my position description.  There is one thing, however, that I find difficult to do.  This is giving feedback to my direct reports. I find it difficult even to give a deserved praise.  I feel strange and uncomfortable praising a person.  I’ve tried it but I ended up regretting my attempts.    I agonize about giving a deserved criticism.  I know both of them are important to improve performance but I find it difficult to express in words what I think and feel.  Can you give me some useful tips that will work.

                                                                                    Mr. Fearful of Giving Feedback


You’re not the only supervisor who finds difficulty in giving feedback, both positive and negative.  In my 27 years of conducting supervisory and management development programs, most participants acknowledge frequently this area as their weakness and area for growth.  Lack of recognition is an area most often complained about by subordinates, of all levels, of their superiors, of all levels.  This can be seen in 360o feedback results in which the giving of recognition is an area of great need.

Even if you didn’t mention it in your email, I can surmise that you have not received a sufficient amount of positive feedback yourself, which is why you find it difficult to give what you don’t have.  Dr. Virginia Satyr, a famous psychologist, used the term “daily stroke quota” to refer to the minimum amount of affirmation—verbal and non-verbal, that we need to feel good about ourselves and to feel good about others.  When a person does not regularly get his “daily stroke quota,” his personality changes.  He withdraws from the people who frustrate him, or engages in aggressive behaviors to fill up his attention deficit.

Benefits of Feedback: Everyone needs stroking, affirmation, pats on the back.  The one who protests that he doesn’t need positive feedback is one who is fearful of not getting it.  His protestation becomes a defense mechanism.  “I don’t need what I don’t/can’t get,” is the actual message.

Our feedback to another person enables them to see themselves as we see them, thus expanding their self-awareness.  It enables the person to know how their behavior/performance affects us.  It provides them the opportunity to receive a deserved praise or a needed correction.  Addressing the area of correction provides the impetus for growth and development.

Feedback can be verbal or non-verbal.  Verbal takes the form of words of praise, compliment or affirmation. Non-verbal can be in the form of listening attentively to understand, nods of approval, smiling, giving a pat on the back, acknowledging an employee’s ideas and suggestions, etc.  Combining both the verbal and the non-verbal is a powerful tool that boosts one’s morale, self-esteem and productivity.

Positive feedback is likened to psychological oxygen that makes a person “grow, glow and go.”   It motivates the receiver to continue what he/she is doing, and maintains and improves productive behaviors.  Receiving sincere positive feedback and other forms of recognition are one of the factors that contribute to an employee’s work engagement and retention.  This is one of the findings of the Hewitt Associates research on Best Employers in Asia in 2004.  Among corporations in the Philippines studied by Hewitt Associates, employees ranked recognition as the # 1 driver of work engagement followed by pay, opportunities for advancement and HR practices beneficial to employees.  Highly engaged employees were found to be those who stay long and build their careers in the company, who deliver consistently high performance and say positive things about the company to customers and to the public.

Feedback vs. Reinforcement.   Feedback can be given on the being and doing of a person. It can refer to the qualities of a person or to the behaviors of a person that one likes.  On the other hand, reinforcement is a kind of feedback that is focused on the behavior of the person, i.e., his doing.   We give positive reinforcement to the positive behavior of a person and this makes him more likely to repeat the same positive behaviors.  We give negative reinforcement to the negative behavior of a person and this makes him less likely to repeat the same negative behaviors.

At times, however, we may give positive reinforcement to a negative behavior making it more likely for the person to repeat the negative behavior.  An example:  we start a meeting at 9:15 a.m. because we wait for the latecomers to arrive when everyone concerned had agreed to the schedule of 8:30 a.m.  We thus delivered a positive reinforcement to the latecoming behaviors and negative reinforcement to the positive behaviors of those who came early.   You can be sure that if you do this often, those who came early will come late at the succeeding meetings.

What Do We Give Positive Reinforcement To?  There are two things that a leader can give positive reinforcement to:  positive behaviors and the results of these positive behaviors.

When an employee is new to the job, needs to learn the tasks, and needs self-confidence to do them, the leader observes closely how he performs a task and notes the positive behaviors that the employee displays. An example of this:   a new Sales Rep has asked the right kind of questions and was able to handle the customer’s objection.  The Supervisor tells him, after the sales call, and as soon as possible when they are alone:   “Roy, I like the way you handled Mr. Santos’ objections. You made good use of probing to extract information from him on his reason for refusing to stock up on our new product. You were able to show the advantage of having stocks available to avoid bouncing prescriptions and lost sale.  That was really well done, Roy!”  Say this while smiling at him and nodding your head in approval.

The Supervisor also gives positive reinforcement when outside conditions prevent, for example, the Sales Rep from attaining his quota, even though he is making regular quality calls.

For example:  A Sales Rep regularly calls on his drugstore outlets and he is well liked by drugstore owners.  Unfortunately, however, inspite of his efforts, his sales is low because of low demand for the products, and the company has tightened its credit terms.   In this situation, the Sales Supervisor tells his Sales Rep: “Sammy, I noticed that your call frequency is high and that you’re calling on four potential outlets regularly. But overall sales in your territory is low.  I know that it’s sometimes difficult to stay motivated during tough situations like this when demand has slowed down due to the prevalence of cheap generic substitutes, and our company is also implementing strictly our credit policies.  But you’re doing a very good job, Sammy.  Keep up the good work.  As soon as things stabilize, I’m sure you’ll reap the benefits of all the good work you’re doing now to build and maintain good relations with your customers.”  If the Sales Supervisor has not said this to Sammy, think of how demoralized and demotivated Sammy would be.  The supervisor recognized two positive behaviors of Sammy e.g., regular calls on potential outlets, and building and maintaining good relations with customers.

Another situation when positive reinforcement is given to positive behaviors is when there is a long time lag between the desired behavior and the desired results. An example is when a Sales Rep is calling on a high-potential account that is difficult to crack.  The Sales Supervisor can give a sincere encouragement by telling his Sales Rep:  “Roy, I know you haven’t opened the ACES account yet, but the tenacity and persistence you’re showing will pay off, not only on this account, but on others as well.”  The supervisor is giving recognition to the sales rep’s persistence and tenacity, which are winning qualities of a sales rep.

In each of these situations, a specific behavior or set of behaviors is reinforced.  This increases the probability that these behaviors will continue, even though the individual has not yet experienced the satisfaction of seeing his particular task completed or his goal accomplished. This situation is also known as shaping behavior.

On the other hand, the Sales Supervisor reinforces results when everything is running smoothly. As an example:  A Sales Rep has been doing a good job of maintaining his quota. The Sales Supervisor can tell him “Mike, I see that you are able to maintain and even exceed your quota.        Keep up the good work. I appreciate all your efforts to achieve your targets consistently. I’m very proud of you.” The supervisor also reinforces consistent improvement in meeting of targets.  As an example, he tells his Sales Rep: “Gloria, your territory has been improving every month for the last four months.  Keep calling on your Key Accounts and doing regular stock checks and merchandising, as well as PR activities to further improve your sales.”

In each of these situations, the individual had done the right things (engaged in the right behaviors) and obtained the desired results.  The emphasis in reinforcement is thus placed upon those results.  Chances are that the recipient of the reinforcement probably will continue to practice those behaviors that led to positive results.  Quite often the performance of a high performer dives down because of lack of positive feedback.

When you give a sincere positive feedback to your subordinate, watch the physical change in his face;  watch his smile, although it may be an embarrassed smile very common among those who are not used to receive compliments, and the glow on his face.  Observe the improvements in his performance.  Very often he does not only repeat the positive behavior; the positive feedback affects other aspects of his performance as well.  An example of this :  when a supervisor gives a positive feedback to his employee for the latter’s initiative in his customer retention campaign, observe how his attendance and punctuality improve as well.  This is known as the ripple effect.

Effect of Silence.  Some supervisors find it difficult to give a deserved positive reinforcement or a negative reinforcement directly to the person.

The common reaction to a difficult situation is withdrawal; in this case, withdrawal takes the form of silence.  What does silence on the part of the boss convey or communicate to his employee?  If the subordinate does a positive behavior or accomplishes something, and the boss says nothing about it, the positive behavior goes through a process of extinction until it disappears.  If the subordinate does a negative behavior, such as coming one hour late for work, or making an incorrect but deliberate entry in his/her expense report, etc. and the boss says nothing about it, silence is a positive reinforcement to the negative behavior.  You can be sure that the negative behavior will be repeated again and again until it becomes a habit.  This is how we contribute to the development of bad habits and vices of others.  We say nothing when they do it, making them feel we approve of it.

Quite often, we praise an employee to another employee, or complain about our employee to another employee rather than direct the feedback to the employee concerned.  Performance evaluation could be an occasion to give effective feedback on performance.  Unfortunately, performance appraisal is usually done hurriedly, doing away with the one-on-one feedback session that could have been helpful in strengthening relationship.

Some Guidelines In Giving Negative Feedback.  The giving of both positive and negative feedback is a very useful tool in performance management and in coaching. A leader  can not be effective without the use of feedback skills.

Negative feedback, if done and given correctly, and immediately, corrects negative behaviors and eliminates unproductive behaviors.   Here are some useful guidelines in giving negative feedback.

  1. Describe the specific behavior or incident.  A basic formula for feedback giving uses the I-message i.e., I ( I speak for myself) + feeling (what I feel) + your behavior + consequence.  Ex:  “I am very disappointed that for the third time this month, you submitted your report 1-2 days late.  I had spoken to you about this matter twice already and the consequence of late submission of this report to me and to the person who needs my report.”
  2.   Choose an appropriate time and a private place when nobody can see or hear you when you give negative feedback. Do this one-on-one.
  3. 3.     Describe the context. Ex: “I’d like to talk to you about what happened in our meeting this morning.”
  4. 4.     Speak for yourself, not for others.  Describe your reactions and reasons. Ex:  “I was distracted by your side conversations with Dave and couldn’t follow what others were saying.”
  5. 5.     Ask for the change you like to see.  Ex: “You often have good points to make and I would prefer it if you would share them with the whole group rather than talk about it with another person.”
    1.   Allow or give time for the other person to respond.  Wait in silence as you look at the person.

Some Don’ts in Giving Negative Feedback:

  1. Don’t use labels or judgments. Such as “When you are irresponsible”, or “It’s obvious you’re not a team player because you don’t participate during our meetings.”
  2. Don’t exaggerate.  Ex: Instead of, “You build a wall around yourself and don’t work as a team player,” say “When you don’t speak up.  I’m not sure what you’re thinking about.
  3. After giving a negative feedback, communicate your expectation of the person to change.  When he acknowledges his mistake and apologizes, never say “OK lang” because this negates your message.

Use High Quality Assertive Communication.  By this is meant that our non-verbal (facial expression, tone of voice and body language) must be consistent with the content of our message.

When giving positive feedback, face the person, smile and the tone of our voice conveys happiness.  When giving negative feedback, our face and tone of voice must convey seriousness. Do not smile when giving negative feedback. Never apologize for giving negative feedback.  Example:  “I’m sorry that I have to tell you this.” This confuses the employee.

And never use your cellphone while giving feedback.  This violates high quality assertiveness, does not show respect for the other person and does not speak well of you.

In conclusion:  Forgetting to stroke, to affirm, to pat a person’s back when this is deserved, is a sin of omission.  How many persons in the workplace go through their worklife feeling unloved and unappreciated.  They don’t grow fast enough or worse, not all, because of the lack of impetus to growth which a positive feedback gives.

You asked me to give you “some useful tips that will work.”   These tips that I have shared with you will only work if you use them with an open mind i.e., you have a positive attitude about their usefulness.  Do not immediately say “It’s difficult” without trying with the attitude that they will work.  If you won’t start doing it now, when will you ever do it?  Practice giving feedback by:

  1. writing down a positive feedback script and a negative feedback script for each of your subordinates.
  2. imagining yourself talking to each one in a high quality assertive way

Practicing by yourself will remove the discomfort you feel when you actually deliver it.

How About You?  I started my advice with a diagnosis that perhaps you don’t get your daily stroke quota which is why you find it difficult to affirm another person even if deserved.  Here are some positive and proactive ways you can do to fill your daily quota:

  1. Do a great job. Exceed expectations
  2. Help people do their work better through coaching.
  3. 3.      If they still don’t affirm you, ask them.  “How did you find my work?”  “How did you like my report?”  “How did you find my presentation?” etc.
  4. If still you don’t get the affirmation you deserve, “shake the dust off your feet”, as Jesus advised His apostles on mission.  This means “Don’t bother about them.”
  5. Continue to be good, to do good, to feel good. This is your own built-in positive reinforcement.


God bless you.



Josie O. Santamaria

My boss likes me so much that he wants to keep me so that I’ll continue to be of value to him.  In so doing, I’m not able to develop myself and to advance in my career.  I graduated with honors from a good school and had no problem getting a job in my present company which I joined five years ago as a management trainee.  After one year with my current boss, he promoted me to be his executive assistant, a position I’ve held for four years now.  He lavishes compliments on me for the work I do and gives me high performance appraisal ratings.  I receive performance bonuses.  So I have no problem with him re: receiving appreciation, recognition and financial rewards.  My big problem is: he wants to keep me as his executive assistant and in his department because he considers me “my right hand whom I trust completely.”  Meanwhile, one of my two batchmates had gone far in their career:  one has been promoted to department manager – the same level as my boss, and the other one has risen to a senior technical position in the company.


I want to be considered for higher positions and to advance in my career but my being a valued employee of my boss has become a stumbling block.  What shall I do?

Mr. Career Stuck


What’s stopping you from opening up to your boss and telling him what you want in your career and seeking his help in getting what you want?


Have a Career Plan First.  Before you approach him, be clear about where you want to go in your career and in your life.  This way, you will not be merely reacting to the promotion to department head of your batchmate.  Your career plan includes being clear about your career goal and plotting your career path to achieve this goal.  Your career goal should take into consideration:


(1)   Knowing yourself: your skills/competencies which you enjoy using; and a clear vision of your ideal job/career because this will reflect your interests, needs and values;

(2)   Knowing what positions and in what department in your company will enable you to achieve this goal;

(3)   Knowing the competencies of each position, and comparing these with what you currently possess so that you can see the gap that you must address through training and development efforts and relevant work experience, which is not in your current job.


Contents of Your Career Plan.  Your career plan must contain the following items:


  1. Career Goal.  This must be stated in a SMART way, i.e., specific, measurable, attainable, relevant (to your values and needs) and time bound.  Example:  To occupy a marketing manager position in this company or in some other company by end of 2014.
  2. Career Path.  Sequence of positions to be held to achieve your career goal.
  3. Competencies required for each position.
  4. Training and development and work experience required to gain these competencies.  In addition to training (for short courses), cross-posting, job rotation, getting a graduate degree, etc. are sources of your professional development.
  5. Action Plans and when you will do each of them.  Action plans include doing research on the positions in the company that are relevant to your career goal, the competencies required, making an appointment with your boss, etc., and the dates to do these.


Be Assertive.  The reason why you are stuck in your current work situation is because you have allowed your boss to manage your career by being your non-assertive.  When you go and see him, you must be clear about your career plan and your career path so that you can be assertive in expressing what you want and the help you will request from him.  Then, request your boss to recommend you to the head of the department that you want to join in line with your career goal.


In case he will not recommend you, ask him if you can get the help of your HR Head to facilitate your transfer.   Another option is for you to apply directly to the department head.  Be prepared to get an entry level job in the new department and from there work your way up.


I don’t know what your corporate culture is regarding interdepartment transfers.  If the culture is one that believes in putting the right person in the right career to benefit both the company and the person, then you’ll have no problem.  Companies nowadays value their talented and high producing employees and would do everything to keep them rather than to lose them to other companies.


God bless you.



Josie O. Santamaria

Finally, after being jobless for 1 ½ years after my graduation, I now have a good job in a good company.  I say it is a good job because it fits my qualifications, e.g. my college degree, my interests and my needs.  I say good company because its compensation package is good and the people (my boss and colleagues) are all nice to me.

I want to stay in this company.  Will you give me some tips that will help me become a good employee so that I will retain my job and even progress in my career?  Am I an “eager beaver”?

Mr. Eager Beaver


Congratulations for wanting to be successful in your first job and desiring to build your career in your company!  You are the first person who has written me who is not seeking advice on a work/career issue.  Your great desire is to be good in your job, so that you can keep it, the company can keep you and you can advance in your career.

In my book Managing Work and Career (New Day publishers, 2003) I wrote a chapter on “Get a New Start in your New Job” and another on “How to Keep Your Job” from which I’ll be quoting pertinent portions.

Most likely you will be on probation for six months during which you are going to be closely observed by how well and how fast you learn how to do your job according to the standards of your supervisor, by your work behaviors (such as punctuality on time and on submission of work) and by your work attitudes .  The high quality and timeliness of your work, your ability to get along with your supervisor and peers, your teachability, your continuous efforts to improve yourself and what you do, etc. — all these are observed and evaluated.

To be successful in your job requires the following things:

  • Knowing the duties and responsibilities of your job and doing an excellent job.
  • Knowing the required competencies required to do these duties and responsibilities and making sure that you acquire these competencies.
  • Knowing and appreciating your company: its mission, vision and core values and how these values are to be expressed in behaviors, attitudes and performance.
  • Having a good and positive interpersonal relationship with your team leader/supervisor and co-team members.
  • Participating actively during meetings.
  • Having an attitude of continuous improvement of your outputs and the process you use to produce it
  • Fast tracking your development

Do excellent work. Clarify with your team leader/manager your understanding of the duties and responsibilities of your position, the standards of performance, timetables, and the like.  These standards are used to evaluate your work outputs.  Ask your leader how  he/she wants a task to be done, what are the results expected of you, and by when, in quantitative and qualitative terms. In fact, it’s not enough to meet the current standards.  You have to exceed these standards.  An example: for one in sales, ‘making two more calls”, exceeding the monthly quota by 50%, giving a complete report a week before it is due, and the like.  You do not merely satisfy your customer; you must delight them; make them your “raving fans” — jargons that we have barrowed from the US corporate world.

Required competencies. When you develop competencies required to perform your job according to the standards of your internal customers, you are also developing yourself and acquiring personal mastery that results in your feeling self-empowered.  You will be appraised by the level you have progressed on these competencies on a continuum.

Know and appreciate your company. Know and understand the mission, vision and core values of your company.  Know its products and services.  If you are working in a consumer company, be sure that you use and patronize its products and services and not those of its competitors. Market your company’s products and services among members of your family, relatives and friends.

The core values are what make one company different from another.  They affect all aspects of the business – from the quality of products produced or what kind of service is given external customers, to how employees (internal customers) are treated.  They determine what are  acceptable and unacceptable behaviors.  A new employee must be sensitive to what behaviors are approved of or censured, and listen to his leader/manager and the senior team members, on  what “should” or “should not” be done.

Good and positive interpersonal relationships. You must be sensitive to how you affect others.  Understand how your work responsibilities and outputs affect your leader/manager and your peers, and how their work, in turn, affects you.  Your leader/manager is your No.1 customer; it is his/her standards that prevail.  So you must frequently seek his/her feedback on how he/she evaluates your work and seek his/her suggestions on how to improve it. Be a team player. Be helpful to your co-team members so that they, in turn, will help you when you need their help.  The quality (accuracy, completeness, etc.) of your work and your dependability in meeting deadlines will make them trust you.  Doing re-work is expensive.

Active participation during meetings. Add your value to every meeting that you attend by active participation.  Be  prepared for meetings  by knowing the agenda so that you can do your research and contribute useful opinions and researched data.  No-no’s during meetings include: texting or making calls thru your cellphone, bringing your work and doing it while the meeting is on-going, holding another meeting with others, or looking bored and yawning. These are negative behaviors that show disrespect for those who are participating.

An attitude of continuous improvement. If you do your job mechanically, that’s the start of boredom.  There  are senior employees who do the same things year in and year out because they are settled in their “comfort zone”.  Continue to improve your output and your process.  Never be contended with the “bahala na”, “ok na ‘yan”, “pwede n’yan”, and the like.  Seek the opinions and suggestions of your external and internal customers on how you can improve.  Ask your team leader how your work can be improved.  Challenge yourself to build lasting relationship with your external customers so that they continue to prescribe your products and be loyal customers.

Fast-track your development. Having a career goal towards which you focus your learning and development will help you see opportunities when you recognize them.  The notion of career advancement as “moving up “ is no longer possible in today’s “lean and mean” organizations.  Promotion to the next step in the ladder is hard to come by.  Career moves are often lateral and this is advantageous because you will be acquiring additional competencies.  Welcome multiple tasking as a way of acquiring more and varied skills.  Being multi-tasked, multi-skilled or using your multiple talents will increase your career options.  If you have a good relationship with your boss because you are helping him/her meet his/her team goals, you can ask him/her to coach you in areas where you can still improve.  Cross-functional teams being the way projects are now done will expose you to varied work environments and to interact with a diversity of talents.

Doing your work excellently, according to the  standards of your internal and external customers, enjoying doing  your work, and continuously improving it, will get you off to a good start in your new job.

No, you are not an eager beaver.  You re an enthusiastic beginner ready and willing to conquer the world!  Do not be disillusioned though if things do not go as you expect them.  Continue to be self-motivated in doing the above suggestions.  You will eventually reap the fruit of your proactivity.

God bless you.


Josie O. Santamaria

My co-employees and I read with great interest your advice to Mr. Short Fuse on how he could control his temper (Sunday Inquirer, October 3, 2010, Job Market, Working People, “How to Control Temper Outbursts”, p.5).  I wish my boss is like him who regretted his outbursts and wanted to change as it is not only unprofessional but also alienates his employees away from him.  We had planned to send it to our boss but we were so afraid of what she would do to us.  You see, unlike Mr. Short Fuse, our boss is unrepentant and continues to bawl us out for mistakes we commit.  This makes us all the more nervous and wants to avoid her.

I’ve been working under her for only a year now and how I dread our meetings and the times she calls me into her office.  Twice she reprimanded me in front of her visitors.  I cringed in embarrassment but I still managed to smile.  She has never given me praise or recognition for the good work, i.e., when she does not see any error, in the work I’ve done.  I really feel very bad about this.

I’ve approached already the head of HR Department to transfer me to another section but she was unsympathetic and simply told me to adjust to her.  At age 32, I’ll find it difficult to get employment elsewhere.  Besides, I like our company, my salary and the benefits we’re getting.

Please advise me on how I can adjust to her, and not lose my self-respect and preserve my dignity.  I’m about to fall apart.

Ms. About to Fall Apart


I can see how hurt you are at your boss’ behaviors: bawling her employees, reprimanding you in front of her visitors, and not praising you for error-free work.  Because of these, you dread your interactions with her; you even want to be transferred to another section.  However, you are not thinking of resigning; you only want advice on how to adjust to your boss and the situation you are in and not feel degraded.


In order to adjust, i.e., to see your situation and your boss in a positive light so that you don’t feel as hurt as you do, I suggest the following:


1.      Change your way of seeing your boss.  According to the Hewitt Research on Best Employers in Asia, published in 2004 by John Wiley and Sons (Asia) Pte Ltd.:  managers who are predominantly left-brain people — accountants, finance, engineers — are often reluctant to give praise even though they may desperately be in need of praise themselves.  Most likely, your boss is not receiving any praise from her own superiors and this is why she doesn’t know how to give it to her employees.  Perhaps if you see her in this light, it could change your perception and your feelings towards her.

2.      Continue to do well in your work.  I suggest you review your position description and see if you are doing everything expected of you, and doing each task according to expected standards of quality and timeliness.  It is only when you exceed standards or when you do a project in an extraordinary way that you would expect to be given recognition.

3.      If you don’t get a deserved recognition, you can be proactive by asking your boss how she found the work you did.  If she says for instance, that it’s “OK”, you can probe by asking “What’s OK about it, Ma’am, so I would know what to repeat or do even better”.  If she still refuses to give you the satisfaction of a deserved recognition, then accept it as part of her style.

4.      See your boss as your #1 Customer whose needs must be met. To satisfy and delight her is your goal. Doing good work the best way you can is a requirement to please your customer.  If she praises you, consider it a bonus.

5.      Work on improving your character by strengthening your intrinsic reinforcement.  When you’ve done extraordinary work or walked an extra mile with success, feel proud of yourself and enhance your sense of achievement.  The “I did it!” feeling can boost your self-worth.  This verse from Phil. 4:11 “Not that I say this because of need, for I have learned, in whatever situation I find myself, to be self-sufficient.” might help you when your need for recognition is not being met.

6.      When your boss bawls you out for mistakes committed, simply apologize.  When she reprimands you in front of others, do not smile.  Your smile will reinforce her aggression.  After apologizing, just keep silent and look at her.

7.      Add a spiritual dimension:  Offer all your work and the efforts you exert, and your relationships with your boss to God who knows all and sees all.  It is getting His approval that is far more important than any human reward.


God bless you.


Josie O. Santamaria

I’m female, 35 yrs. old, still single. I’ve worked with this company for the past nine years and I can truly say I’ve given it my all! I was in the talent pool, at least I thought I was. I was being sent to attend several training events, in-house and outside, and my former boss (who is no longer with the company) had told me I had a great future in the company.


For the past three years, however, no promotion had come my way.  Three of my peers had been promoted and this greatly demoralized me.  I’ve lost my enthusiasm for my job and am no longer work-engaged (a subject of your column months ago).  It looks like I have no future in this company.  My current boss is so busy attending meetings to bother talking to us even about our work concerns.  He does not conduct real performance discussions.  He just let us sign the appraisal form which he had accomplished.  Shall I look at other options now, if I still have them.  What worries me is that I would have to start all over again if I’m taken in a new company.  I’ll appreciate your advice on this matter.  Thank you.


Ms. Demoralized


Your unmet expectations of career advancement had demoralized and now demotivate you.  You are now thinking of leaving your company; however, this would mean starting all over again.


I agree that you start to explore other options outside of your company; at the same time, you make a good assessment of where you are at in your current company.  This assessment process will also help you in your career exploration.  My advice consists of the following steps:


First of all, define your personal mission in life, your personal vision and your career goal.  Spend a week-end by yourself in a quiet and relaxing place, away from distractions.  Reflect on your mission in life, i.e., why did God create you?  What is His purpose for you?  What and how does He want you to spend your life?   What is your personal vision, i.e., what do you want to be or to become in 10 years’ time?   Have a clear picture of the future you want to have for yourself.


Define your career goal, which should not just be the next promotion.  What do you want to be in, say, five years that will engage you fully and enthuse you because   you are using skills and talents you enjoy doing, satisfying your important needs and living your values?


Ask yourself:  is your career goal aligned with your mission and personal vision in life?  These three should be aligned so that your focus is towards the same direction.

Having a guided retreat or participating in a workshop on life/career planning can be very helpful in helping you to craft your personal mission statement, your personal vision and your career goal.


For example:


Personal Mission:  To be God’s light at the workplace when people I work with witness  that I live the values of excellence, integrity, professionalism and teamwork, and this enables me to contribute towards the success of the organization I work with.

Personal Mission:  In year 2020, I see myself at the head of the sales organization either in my current company or in another company.  This position enables me to influence people in my organization towards meaningful work/life balance and still contributing our utmost to the successful growth of our organization.

Career Goal: By end of 2014, I am occupying the position of sales manager that would enable me to influence my direct reports to live the corporate values, thereby contributing towards greater productivity of our company.


Second: Assess your skills and talents, your needs, values and career interest. Look at on-line for self assessment instruments you can take.  Or, you may look at and see if my Career Planning Workbook available at National Bookstore can help you.

Third.  Look at your current job and see if there is a job-person match, i.e., the skills you are using, the needs you are satisfying and the values you are expressing and activities you prefer to do, are those that relate to your assessed interest, skills, needs, and values.  There is NO perfect match.  What is important is that most of the skills you are using are those related to your interests, and that your needs and values are those that are important to you.  If there is a match, then you can continue to pursue your present career when you apply to other companies.  Or if you choose to remain in your company, you only need to “recharge, refocus and reconnect” which will be discussed below.


Fourth, recharge. With your mission, personal vision and career goal clear to you, and your skills, needs, values and interest clarified, you can now look at how you can make your job meaningful because you see it as a way of fulfilling your mission in life and is a stepping stone towards your personal vision, and in achieving your career goal.


Fifth. Refocus. Being clear about your mission, personal vision and career goal will enable you to drive your own success when you define your job/work goals from a new perspective.   This will promote your work engagement.  You take responsibility for your own success and you are able to define the contribution you want to make.  Promotion is a consequence of these.



Sixth.  Reconnect. Strong positive relationships with your manager and your co-team members are vital to both a great work experience and job success.  Take initiative in setting a meeting with your manager to discuss your job/work goals and getting his inputs.  Take initiative in asking him before the performance appraisal period, to sit down with you to discuss your areas for improvement and how you can hone your skills to enable you to help him meet his own work/team goals.


Write down the script of what you will say to him so that you will gain self-confidence in delivering your message in an assertive yet respectful way.


Leaving your company is bold and risky.  Explore this option anyway by looking at companies whose corporate culture is based on core values aligned with your own values.  Activate your network of former classmates to get leads of job openings.  Ask around.  Update your resumé.  Look at job vacancies and match the requirements of what you know about yourself – your skills, needs, values, career interest, your career goal, personal vision and mission.


God bless you.


Josie O. Santamaria


May 1st, 2011 | Posted by josantamaria in Articles - (0 Comments)

Is there such a thing as loyalty nowadays?  I know I’m a good boss to my employees.  I develop my direct reports and I expect them to develop also their direct reports.  I think of what’s good for them.  Despite these, however, I observe that most of my employees are not enthusiastic about their work; they do their duties because they “have to” not because they “want to”.  I get the feeling that they are on the lookout for a better job offer elsewhere and then get out.  This frustrates me because I want my employees to be loyal to the organization and also to me.  What can I do?

Ms. Loyalty Trademark

You are frustrated that your employees:  1) are not enthused about their job as much as you are about yours; 2) do not show signs of being work engaged; 3) are just waiting for an opportunity to get a better job elsewhere.  For the things you are doing for them, e.g. developing them and looking our for their welfare, you expect them to be grateful to you by being loyal to the organization and to you.

Most of what you say about your employees are all perceptions i.e., your interpretation of their behaviors which are colored by your biases, expectations, needs and values.  This is true to all of us.  In my Ask Your Career Counselor advice, published in the Job Market section of the Sunday Inquirer, July 5, 2009, in the Working People, page 4, I defined employee engagement as one in which the employee is fully involved in, and enthusiastic about his or her work.  He/she feels a strong emotional bond to the organization they work for, and feel connected to the company that values their contribution

Researches have cited five factors as causing employee disengagement:  (1) job dissatisfaction because there is no job-person fit; (2) employees don’t see how their jobs contribute to their section’s, department’s and organization’s goals; (3) lack of feedback and coaching from their supervisors;  (4) incompetent and poorly trained supervisors/managers; and (5) employees are not given opportunities for growth and development.

Research has also shown that the one most important factor that contributes to employee engagement is a strong supervisor-employee relationship.  This is rated higher than “opportunities to excel”, “good work-life balance” and “competitive compensation”.

To validate your perceptions, I suggest you spend time to talk to each one of your direct reports and ask broad questions to show your interest in them.  Questions like:

1.      Are you happy with your work?  Probe further with:  What is it about your job that you like?  What can be improved?  How can you improve it?   How do you want me to help you?

2.      How do you see yourself growing in our company?  What career path do you have in mind?  How do you want me to help you?

3.      How can we improve our systems and procedures?  What should I do more of?  What should I do less of?

In doing this one-on-one conversation, it is important that your verbal and non-verbal behavior (i.e., what you say and how you say it) are conductive to their opening up. Keep silence as you listen with interest to their responses.  You will learn much about them and about you from them.  However, getting information from your employees is one thing; acting on their feedback is another.   It’s important for open communication that they are not afraid of any negative backlash, resulting from what they say.

Self-awareness. There is so much that you need to know about yourself, your attitudes and behaviors when you interact with your employees that could point the way for you to improve.  If they do not open up to you, are fearful or hesitant to approach you, etc., these are signs that you might possibly are directive, task-oriented and controlling despite your good intentions to be a “good boss”, and a good coach.  Intentions and actions are two different things.  As the author Aldous Huxley wrote: “If most of us remain ignorant of ourselves, it is because self-knowledge is painful and we prefer the pleasure of illusion”

No doubt you know that loyalty is never deserved; it is earned.  Loyalty is strongly driven by the connections employees and managers feel with one another at work.  Building loyal relationships professionally and personally always begins with honest and valid self-assessment.  Improving connections with others invariably begins with improving oneself as a leader, as a manager, as a colleague, and as an employee.

Instead of being concerned about gaining your employees’ loyalty, I suggest you concentrate your efforts on building strong positive relationships with your employees.  Research from time  immemorial has shown that the most productive, most innovative teams within companies are built on strong relationships.  Even satisfaction with and happiness at work are in large part a function of the bonds at work.

Building a loyalty-driven organization doesn’t just happen.  It requires questioning some practices of managers, being open to self-confrontation on their part, and changing some long standing behaviors.

Believe me, change must always start with the boss, or the leader.  It’s always a top-down approach.

Get and Give Feedback.  It is just as important that you get feedback from your colleagues/peers, from your own manager on how they see to be your areas for improvement.  Thank them for their feedback.

When you coach an employee, it is for the purpose of helping her/him become a winner and contribute to team victory.  Give credit to the contribution of each person in your team, not merely to the success of the whole team.  One of the strategies to getting employees engaged is when each one sees how he/she has contributed to the success of the team in achieving a goal.

Positive feedback always has great impact when it is personalized and specific.  Look at your employee straight in the eye, smile, shake his/her hand and say with a tone of sincerity, “I am so happy with the way you responded to Mr. Customer’s objection about the higher price of our product.  You were so convincing!”  Or, “I am very proud about the way you got Dr. X to prescribe our product.  When I was covering him as a Med Rep, I couldn’t get him to prescribe our product.  But you did it!  Congratulations!”  Then follow this up with a written memo of congratulations for his/her achievement, forwarding a copy to your own boss and to your employee’s 201 file.  How do you think their affirmation will impact your employee?  What a boost this will be to a strong positive relationship between you.  Sad to say many Filipino managers are remiss in the area of affirmation and recognition.  Is it because they don’t experience receiving it themselves?

My advice is for you to develop strong positive relationship with your employees.  Their loyalty to you and to your organization will follow.

God bless you.


Josie O. Santamaria

In all honesty, I’m a good performer and I’ve been receiving consistently high ratings in almost all aspects of my work except in one.  I feel anxious and afraid to give a presentation before our management team.  Just the thought of this gives me the jitters.  I’m an assistant to a member of this team and my boss has been wanting me to give a presentation for two reasons :  she wants me to have visibility and to develop me.  She is a great boss and genuinely concerned about my growth and career advancement.  For a number of times I’ve been avoiding this task, giving all sorts of excuse.  My boss finally told me that she will schedule me to give a presentation to our ManCom, first quarter of 2011.  I’m so nervous I spend sleepless nights and can’t concentrate on my work just thinking about this.


Please help me overcome this fear and gain self-confidence.  Thank you.


Ms. Very Nervous


You have described very well your feelings about making a presentation before the management team.  I suppose you don’t have similar fear and anxiety when presenting before peers and before employees with lower status since you didn’t mention this.  You have two options to choose from since your boss has told you, with finality, that you would be giving a presentation in the first quarter of next year:  face the challenge and develop your skills and self-confidence to give a presentation or continue to withdraw and erode your self-esteem in the process.


I can empathize with you because I used to exhibit the same fear reactions in giving a speech before a big audience in an auditorium.  Yet, I was already at that time, an assistant professor in a university. Let me share with you what I did to overcome my fear and gain self-confidence:


First, I made sure I was prepared with the material that I was going to present.  I gained mastery of the subject matter  so I could answer questions about it.


Second, I practiced reading the material, making sure, I had audience contact and appropriate pauses.


Third, I role played or rehearsed the presentation in the actual place where I would deliver it, and doing this after office hours when there was no one else in the lecture hall.  I walked to the podium, pretended I was looking at an audience, smiled and delivered my presentation, ensuring I had audience contact at appropriate times.  When the mock presentation ended, I looked at the audience again and smiled.  I pretended there was an open forum and that I was answering one question after the other about my presentation.  Then I thanked the imaginary audience, and walked away.  I was fortunate that I had a sympathetic colleague who accompanied me during two rehearsals, asked me questions and critiqued my presentation.


Fourth, on the actual day and time of my speech, I controlled my nervousness by repeating to myself over and over again : “ I can do it.  I will do it.  The Holy Spirit is with me.”  This process helped me lessen my fear.


Fifth, after each “successful presentation”, I would congratulate myself with a “I did it!  Thank you, Lord!”  I allowed myself to feel good with my achievement.


In the May 2010 issue of the journal T + D of the American Society for Training and Development, an article entitled “Speaking Up :  10 Tips for Making a C-Level Presentation” written by Kathy Reiffenstein, gave some practical suggestions that will  help you in your preparation to top-level executives whom she describes as having a short attention span, have a “show me” attitude, and a license to interrupt a presenter at any point in their presentation.  This unique group’s frequent complaints were that presentations given to them provide too many details and don’t link to corporate objectives.  In addition, these executives complain that presentors can’t answer challenging questions.


The writer of this article gave the following tips


1.     Analyze your audience and anticipate their needs.  The CFO, for instance wants to analyze the financial implications of what you have presented before being asked to make a decision.  The CEO prefers to see an agenda before the presentation.  Perhaps you can ask your boss about each of the members of the ManCom and their peculiar needs;

2.  Link your presentation to the challenges and overarching business issues :  Show how your message is relevant to issues the executives focus on, be it corporate strategy, profitability, revenue or RO1.  Don’t leave it up to them to figure it out.  Demonstrate the business links through specific statements, examples and metaphors.


Every audience, no matter how senior, asks the “What’s in it for me?” questions.  Specifically, “Why should I listen?” “What benefit will I get from this presentation vs. doing things I need to do right now?”


3.  Start with conclusions.  Since top-level executives are results-focused, start with the conclusions of your presentation and then support those conclusions with the necessary details and facts.

For example, begin your presentation with the following information : “Approximately 50 percent of our business currently comes through referrals from our existing customers. The referral training and tracing program I am recommending will increase our revenue by $500,000 annually. The benefits will include a greater number of prospects for the sales force and higher customer satisfaction scores.  Let me show you how this will be.”

4.  Beware of too much detail. Senior- level executives think more strategically than operationally.  In considering a topic they want to understand quickly what the impact is on the big picture without wading through a pile of details.


The author suggests that you structure your presentation around high level concepts and just be ready with facts and supporting data when asked about them.  Present examples, figures and analysis only when your audience wants them.


5.  Beware of too many slides. Keep your slides to a minimum, keep them clean and simple and use them only when they can add value to or further explain what they are saying.  It is better to use charts and graphics rather than bullet points.

6.  Expect and welcome interruptions.  See interruptions in a positive light : you have sparked an idea that the person wants to talk about rather than that you have confused them and they want clarification. Know your material forward and backward so that you can determine how to get back on track.


Be attentive to your audience to determine what they want to pursue further and when.  It is better to allow your audience to interrupt you and discuss something in your presentation that interest them than to stick rigidly to your script.  If you have sparked a lively discussion, your audience is engaged.


7.  Anticipate tough questions. Your boss can help you what these tough questions might be and how to answer them.

The author of the article gives these three techniques to handle tough questions:

  • Redirect. Ask if someone in the ManCom would like to comment on the question.
  • Rephrase or confirm. This will ensure that you have understood the question correctly or getting correction on your understanding.
  • Resist the fear of saying “I don’t know”. Don’t be afraid to say “ I don’t have an answer to your question” rather than trying to bluff.  You’ll get respect from your honest admission of not knowing the answer.

8.   Use stories and examples. The use of stories, anecdotes and metaphors humanize flat facts and figures making them more engaging and your message interesting.  Stories must be relevant to the point you are making.  Like the rest of your presentation, prepare your stories ahead of time, and practice them until your delivery is perfect.

9.     Plan to use less than your allotted time. A good rule of thumb is that your presentation should take only 70% of the time allotted to you.  This time allotment includes interruptions, question-and-answer time, and unexpected dialogs.

10.   Practice, practice, practice. In this age of technology, videotape yourself  delivering your presentation until you have reached a level of confidence.


Let me add another tip:  Stop saying negative statements to yourself as “I’m nervous”, “It’s difficult”, “I can’t do it”, etc.  These will make you  even more nervous and agitated.  Replace them with positive self-affirmations to boost your confidence level, such as, “I’m getting better in my delivery”, “I can do it”, “I can overcome my nervousness”, etc.


Communicating powerfully and persuasively in any presentation can be a career-making skill and nowhere is it critical and challenging than the executive suite or in the boardroom.  Every element of the presentation must be planned and practiced for you to learn the skills. After every presentation, you hone your skills and enhance your confidence level. The intrinsic rewards are great: self-satisfaction, self-fulfillment, sense of achievement and personal empowerment.


God bless you by rewarding your efforts with success.


Josie O. Santamaria