Back to Basics
Working with C-Level Executives
How to communicate effectively with top management
by Mimi AlmeidaFebruary 1, 2012
President and co-founder of All Performance Associates, a meetings, motivation and engagement company based in Walnut Creek, Calif.
• Addressing small comforts for senior executives on the road will result in lower stress levels for everyone. If you have a health-conscious executive, put a small juicer with fresh fruits and veggies in the hotel room. For java enthusiasts, have a coffeemaker, premium coffee and a personalized mug delivered.
• Senior executives appreciate positive feedback as much as anyone. Be sure to express your gratitude to them for taking time to meet with you or to attend your event.
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Working with high-level execs can be a great opportunity to
increase your visibility, education and professional skills. At the same
time, it can be stressful: You have to balance the intuition of a
psychic with the skill of a diplomat and a talent for stepping out of
your own ego when dealing with top management.
Meet the Leader
Every communication you have with top brass is important, and knowing
how to present your ideas, values and skills is essential. Senior
executives are extremely busy, so if you are able to secure time with
them, make the most of it.
Prior to an appointment with the senior leader, it's good practice to send him or her a brief agenda.
During the meeting, keep the conversation brief, concise and to the point.
your appointment, follow up with a written recap of the discussion to
confirm decisions made and outline your understanding of next steps
required. Keeping a written record of important conversations has saved
me on innumerable occasions when busy execs have forgotten details of
decisions made weeks or even months earlier.
Don't overpromise unrealistic results. Executives always will recall
promises that go unfulfilled. Don't be pushed into unrealistic time
frames. Instead, try to break the task up into manageable segments and
provide a timeline with specific deliverable dates.
Never ask for
the minimum time, resources or attention you believe is required for
the project at hand. Always build in some kind of cushion in case of
unexpected events or expenses.
Be the Expert
You are the subject matter expert when it comes to meetings. If top
brass makes a request that you think is unwise, it's up to you to
explain why. There is always a way to make something happen, but there
might also be unintended consequences (e.g., extra costs, personnel).
sure to speak up and point out the potential pitfalls clearly and
succinctly. Better yet, make an alternative recommendation that will
make both of you look good.
Because so much of what we do as
planners is behind the scenes, senior managers might not be aware of how
long a task should take or appreciate the domino effect of a specific
request. Don't expect them to understand; your job is to fulfill the
request in the most efficient, timely and budget-conscious manner
Make a Friend Busy execs
move quickly from one task to the next and generally are impatient if
you have to ask follow-up questions. Once they've imparted information
to you, they consider the matter off their plate.
it's a good idea to cultivate a relationship with the executive's
administrative assistant. This individual already knows how to read the
exec's mind and might be able to guide you to a better understanding of
how to interpret instructions.
Assistants also can provide
helpful insights to the exec's management style, communication
preferences and hot buttons. And they can get you on the calendar when
you do need to meet with top brass.