||11/13/2012 12:36:21 PM|
Executive Conversations: 5 Keys to Communicating So the C-Suite Listens
When was the last time you headed
down the hall or up the elevator with a senior company officer or manager to
present a new opportunity, raise an issue or just plain get some questions
answered? Talking to members of the C-suite and senior management can be stressful,
but it can be the difference between a
successful career and a go-nowhere job. When
face time is often limited, how do you make the most of these conversations? It
takes preparation and specialized knowledge to communicate clearly, concisely,
directly and, most importantly, persuasively
with the decision makers who can green light your ideas. The following strategies will help ensure
that each conversation is professional and effective.
Know your audience and tailor your message to their
communication style. Everyone has a
preferred style of communication: Some people are direct while others are
emotional; some are casual while others are formal; some prefer a lot of detail
while others prefer a high-level overview. Any and all of these styles might be
found in the executive suite. To complicate matters further, the style will
likely change depending on the situation.
This is where you need to do your
homework. Thoughtful (and successful) communicators know the chain of command
above them and understand the communication style of every senior leader and
executive—all the way to the top of the organization. Read their emails
carefully, watch how they communicate to the organization, and ask those who
interact with them frequently, such as their administrative assistant, about their
preferences. Once you understand their style, adjust your communication
Think like an executive. One of the most common mistakes
that people make when communicating with executives and senior managers is failing
to understand what is and is not important to them. Because messaging tends to
be more effective when framed within the context of the audience, you need to
try to think like an executive. Untimately, they care about execution and
anything that promotes or inhibits the organization’s ability to achieve it.
Framing your message in these terms will get their attention and help them
reach the conclusion that you are like-minded and focused on business outcomes.
Additionally, most executives got where they are because they are effective
problem solvers, so never point out a challenge without offering a solution.
Prepare for impromptu communication. It may sound a bit like an oxymoron, but employees
should prepare for a chance meeting with an executive. Executives and senior
managers are quite used to challenging the people around them, and if you are
not prepared, an impromptu hallway conversation could do more harm than good.
It is a mistake to assume that impromptu conversations are casual, because
where business is the topic of conversation, it’s a serious discussion, whether
it appears to be or not. Consider
carefully the topic you wish to address and provide solid solutions to issues
executives may not even be aware of. It will help showcase your knowledge and
your aptitude as a problem solver.
Know the right place and the right
time to deliver your message. An idea, any idea, is not going to come across well if it is
delivered out of context or if it is delivered in an inappropriate way. Many opportunities have been lost, due to a
case of the jitters, when trying to share ideas with an executive. For most people, however, communicating with
executives is like anything else: The more they do it, the more effective they
become. While your access to the executive
suite may be limited, you can still prepare for these opportunities. Develop various situation-appropriate
messages in advance. The company picnic
may not be the place to discuss specifics of a product line you would like to
develop, but could be an opportunity to introduce your concept at a high level.
Be prepared with details, however; asking next level questions is instinctive
for many executives.