Jennifer McClure is a long-time partner and friend of Centennial. Her leadership talents have been, and continue to be, a valuable part of our efforts to empower organizations to plan, hire, retain, and grow.
This week we are featuring an article originally published on Jennifer’s website. She provides practical advice on a topic that is essential to being a great leader – getting your message heard. Take a look at what she has to say.
Do you want to be a leader who gets noticed by the C-suite, and is known as someone who can add value to any strategic conversation? Then you must learn to communicate like an executive – whether you hold an executive title, or not.
In order to be heard; in order to present effective business cases; in order to get approval to make the changes you want to make; you must be able to communicate in a way that executives can relate to, and understand.
Yes, every one of us is a unique and special snowflake. It’s true.
But your unique combination of skills, experience, and education won’t do you (or your organization) any good if you’re not willing to use your expertise, and bring it to the table.
Executives get paid to have ideas and opinions – and to take action. While it’s definitely important to listen to others, to gather information, and to seek out data to support ideas, the most effective leaders do this as quickly as possible, and then decide upon a course of action.
Great leaders are decisive, and respected leaders are willing to take action – even if it’s potentially wrong. They’re not afraid to admit they were wrong, if necessary, and try again.
Always Be Closing
If you’re making decisions, you’ll have to present your ideas or proposals in front of other decision-makers to get approval. This means that in addition to being a leader/executive, you’re also in sales, and if you want to get your ideas approved, you’d better get good at understanding your “customers” so you can sell them what they need.
Let’s assume that most decision-makers are out to do the right thing for their organization, so it’s your job to provide them with the reasons why accepting your proposal, or making a change is a great thing to do.
What won’t work? Saying, “We just need to do this because it’s the right thing to do,” or “We’ve got to do this, or we’ll get sued.” Nope. You’re better than that.
Provide information about the problem(s) that you have identified that require a solution, and share you ideas to solve the problem(s). Frame your solution in terms of how it will benefit the company, as well as what negative consequences will occur if your idea is not implemented.
Hot tip: A successful proposal is always a solution to an identified problem.
Speak Their Language
Did you know that C-level leaders and executives speak their own language? They do!
Executives speak the language of Money, and if you’re not speaking Money to them, you might as well be talking in a foreign language. You’ll never be able to communicate with them.
If you want execs to understand you, you’ve got to become fluent in Money-speak, and I’ve got the CliffsNotes version of the Rosetta Stone course for you:
Every idea or change you propose needs to be framed in terms of dollars and cents. Period.
Every idea you put forward, everything you ask for, everything you want to change has to be framed in terms of increased or decreased productivity, profitability, customer satisfaction, etc. – the areas that directly impact your company’s bottom line.
Executive decisions are always made in the context of money. Execs are paid to provide a return for shareholders, or the company’s owners, and they rarely do something just because “it’s the right thing to do” – unless the right thing to do adds more money to the bottom line.
Learn How To Negotiate
Even when you make decisions, sell your ideas effectively, and speak in the language execs understand, sometimes there will still be questions that need to be answered, or someone may disagree with you.
To ensure that your proposals don’t get derailed at this point, do your homework up front, anticipate any questions or concerns that will be raised – and be prepared to respond with data and facts to counter those concerns, and that support your decision.
Negotiation is the executive’s sport of choice, and good negotiators know that the purpose of a negotiation is not to win or lose. The goal of effective negotiations is always be to end up with the best idea, and often the only way to get to that is to navigate through conflict. Embrace that conflict. It should be a good thing that makes your proposal better.
Good ideas that are challenged, thoroughly vetted – and even go through a few iterations – often become great ideas. Remember, it’s business. It’s not personal.
Always Bring Data
Data is not just your friend. It’s the type of friend that you should marry and have by your side forever in order to succeed in business.
Facts and data are the magic tools in the art of persuasion. Anyone can argue with an opinion, but it’s tough to argue with facts.
Do your research. Run the numbers. Show your work. Get your ideas approved – and get noticed!