The other day I was speaking to a mid-level manager at a large trash-recycling firm who told me that one of his biggest challenges is communicating up the chain of command. He feels intimated when he has to speak to superiors.

He told me he gets tongue-tied, whether it be a one-on-one conversation or a presentation in a meeting.

This is a self-esteem and self-value issue. He, and many others I’ve coached over the years, feel intimated because they feel “less than” the people they are in front of.

I felt like I was speaking to a younger version of myself.

As a young executive in professional baseball, I often felt this way.

An incident after my first season as vice president/general manager of my first baseball team almost took me down even further.

During my first season I came up with an idea to increase advertising revenue in our nightly game scorecard for the next season.

I created a presentation for our organizational meetings in the fall where I could offer the concept to our principal owner and the four other general managers in our organization.

Following my presentation, which I thought I did pretty well considering my extreme nervousness, our principal owner said, “Well, Skip, that’s a great idea, but, we don’t do it that way in Nashville (the home office and city that launched this group’s first baseball team).”

That statement meant I wouldn’t be doing it in my city, either.

I was devastated. I felt judged and demeaned in front of my bosses and peers. It reinforced my low self-esteem and self-worth that I couldn’t be as smart as those above me.

Later that night, at dinner, all the other general managers told me they thought it was a great idea and I should do it anyway.

One of those who agreed was our senior vice president for operations who also told me to do it and that he would back me up when the time came.

That gave me confidence and began to build my self-esteem. My idea worked like a charm and got me a bonus the next season.

At a personal development seminar a few years later the presenter changed my life by offering the best piece of advice I’ve ever heard in this context.

He said, “everyone is better than others at something and because of that we must be humble enough to realize that when we are in front of someone else, and for that reason, everyone deserves our respect and appreciation.”

And, it really doesn’t matter what that is, or even if it’s important to us. Just being humble enough to know that that’s the truth leads to mutual respect.

Likewise, if we go into a conversation with someone by whom we feel intimidated just because of their position, believing we are superior to them at something, automatically raises us to a peer level.

In speaking with this individual, I told him…

They hired you as the expert in your department. You know much more about your role than your bosses, this makes you a peer of them. Even with their level of education and college degree on the wall, they don’t have the expertise you have in your field. Therefore, this makes you superior to them in this area and a peer of them in your organization. Begin acting like it.

He thanked me for that advice and said, “you know, my girlfriend tells me the same thing !”


Skip Weisman, The Leadership & Workplace Communication Expert, works with small business owners to help them lead their employees from drama & defensiveness to ownership & initiative. During a 20-year career in professional baseball management, Skip served as CEO for five different franchises. That experience gave Skip tremendous insight and skill for build high-performing teams in the workplace. Skip’s new small business coaching program, based on leadership during the American Revolution, is called Revolutionary Leadership.