When Speaking To Executives: Why Can’t They Hear What I Say?
I find it interesting that most executives tell me they wish people speaking to them would get to the point right up front and people speaking to executives tell me they don’t feel their executives listen.
Hmm… What’s happening here?
For most of you when you go in and talk to your executives you see it as your one time to shine and show all that you have done so far. For the executives they see it as a time for them to see how what you are doing is helping the organization reach its larger goals. So they aren’t listening to how YOU look but rather they are looking for did you THINK THROUGH IT from that higher perspective.
Here are the three big errors I see leaders make when presenting to executives:
1. Assuming the leaders are highly intelligent and that sharing the big picture of what they are there to discuss would be “redundant.” Just because the leader asked you to present to them doesn’t mean they remember exactly what you were talk on or why. Remember their brain power is on the big picture. Therefore what you present they are weighing against all the other top priorities on their plate.
2. Assuming the executives want to know all the details. What the executives want to know is that YOU know all the details and you see how they fit with the BIG PICTURE. Yes they will drill you with questions so yes you want to have the detail handy but you don’t need to SHOW them all. You just need to know which are relevant to the big picture.
3. Assuming that the executives are way above you and you are there to get their approval. As soon as you tune your brain in to asking for approval, you put yourself in a passive role. You should have a good grasp of what you are doing, why you are doing it and how it fits in to the organization overall. This means that you are clear and upfront about any challenges, obstacles or benefits you see. You should be the one guiding the conversation and you should know what information you need from them and what outcome you would like. Your job is to have an active engaged conversation with them so there are no surprises later on.
So next time you go in and speak to the executives, think about what you are presenting from THEIR perspective. Don’t try to dazzle them but instead just engage and talk with them. The more you engage as an equal the more they will see the value of your thinking. Bottom line it is your job to be the executive of your area and to give them the information they need to support you, challenge you and engage you so you achieve the greatest success possible for the organization.