I recently went through an executive coaching session on communicating effectively. During that session, a few truth bombs were delivered. One in particular truly resonated that day.
Be Brilliant, Be Brief, Be Gone.
I had heard this truth before and thought it valuable but thought it was cold or even a bit hierarchical at the time. Today’s truth is that as I have progressed in my career, my time is highly limited. I spend my days in back-to-back meetings, many times without time to stop for a snack or lunch break. It’s not a matter of not caring or a lack of appreciation for the hard work and time of others, but is born of necessity. Executives are trained to make decisions all day long. Typically, the reason they are where they are is because they have honed their ability to listen, analyze, and direct the next steps. That doesn’t mean they don’t care. It just means they are focused in on efficiency and effectiveness.
This brings us back to the phrase that can aid your success.
- Learn your executive’s style if possible. Take the time to understand if she wants her information delivered a certain way. Does he always ask for a PDF of the presentation in advance? Does she prefer to have a more conversational approach?
- Answer first. What is the problem and how do you propose it be solved? Get to the point quickly and hook their interest so they can focus in on how the puzzle pieces come together.
- Present the facts. Make sure you have all the data (qualitative and/or quantitative) on anything relevant. What will the cost be? What will the forecasted benefit be? Have competitors enacted anything similar? Is this a pilot? Has this been proven? What is the timeline and the milestones?
- Take notes on any comments, questions, or follow-up items that arise during the meeting. This will help you on the last step. Also, it’s okay to not know the answer. I don’t expect everyone I meet with to know everything – and frankly, find it refreshing when people are honest and tell me they will check on that item and make sure they deliver the RIGHT answer.
- Again, ask questions and take the time to learn more about your executive’s style [note: use the network around the executive, do not ask the executive directly]. Some may like a moment of introduction and friendly background while others want to dive in. Be sensitive to this but also realize that time is a limited resource and you are burning time as we speak.
- Make the point quickly and clearly. Make your ask clear. Make sure your executive knows at the beginning what action you expect them to take.
- Don’t overschedule. Make yourself known for delivering the message in an efficient manner. If you schedule 30 minutes, but only use 20 minutes – great! If you schedule 30 minutes but end up needing 40, do not keep going. Pause and mention that you are at time and allow the executive to decide if they would like to keep going or schedule additional time. Human’s attention spans are short and we all do better in shorter meetings [plus there seems to be a magical ability to take as much time as is scheduled, even when not necessary].
- This one is pretty simple. Get in, make your point, get out. As a follow-up, make sure you send an email recap of your conversation, making sure to include any action items [along with owners of assignments], next steps, and relevant information to the conversation.
When you show your leadership team that you come prepared, deliver a problem and an answer, clear expectations, and are respectful of their time, you make it easy for you to win and for the executive to win. Your reputation and career will benefit.