Whether you’re just starting out or you're in mid-career working on your next promotion, getting visibility with the executive team may be your goal. You might be just itching for the day when you can make that big presentation and show these guys exactly what you’re made of and why YOU should be on the fast track! As you’re getting ready for the opportunity, however, you’ll need to develop a new skill: working effectively with executives. Working with execs is not like having a conversation in your team meeting, or even working with your boss. Nope, it’s a whole different level of conversation, and learning how to engage this audience well will enhance your credibility (and viability) in the organization. Whether you’re having a hallway chat or presenting at a meeting, here are some guidelines to keep in mind when dealing with executives: 1. Executives fly at a different altitude. As with any group or individual, you’ve got to understand your audience to have the most meaningful conversation. Execs leverage the view horizontally across the whole organization, and connect the dots from top to bottom. You need to understand how your piece fits into their worldview to connect most effectively with them. 2. Execs are experts in issue triage. They have learned how to quickly dive into the heart of an agenda item, dissect it, and ask scathingly good, on-point questions. Try to anticipate what questions they might ask and prepare a response. They may not need you to “ramp up” to the conversation. Be ready to get to the heart of it. 3. They expect their scathingly good questions to be answered, directly and succinctly. One of the biggest gaffes I see in executive conversations is failing to answer the question. You may get so excited about what you have to tell them, that you aren’t listening for what they want to hear. Prepare accordingly, listen and respond. Be concise, clear, and direct. 4. They can smell BS a mile away. Don’t do it. And if you choose to do it, don’t say I didn’t warn you. 5. They want to know you believe in what you are saying. Conviction about what you say to an executive is as important as the message itself. I had one manager who struggled with this. We’d send him in to an executive meeting with program information and this caveat: Whatever you do, don’t blink. One time, he blinked. It wasn’t pretty. You must believe in what you are saying and have conviction that it is the right solution for the organization. Executives will test for conviction. 6. They can cover a lot of territory relatively quickly. Think cheetah, gazelle, or quarter horse. They’ll move quickly until they pull up to focus on an issue. They will drive this, not you. Be deliberate, but prepare to move fast and flex the conversation accordingly. Just because you made all those pretty slides it doesn’t mean they want to look at them. 7. If there’s a flaw in your logic, numbers or content, they will find it. And they will point it out to you. Know your backstory and your numbers, and the logic behind them. Have someone with content expertise review, poke, prod, and test your content – and you – ahead of time. Don’t risk destroying your credibility with bad numbers, or worse – a guess. Do not guess, ever. Say you’ll look into it and come back. 8. They’re impatient. They may be abrupt. Don’t expect a group hug when you leave. If you’re presenting something, don’t expect flowery kudos when you’re done. They’re moving on to their next agenda item while you’re gathering up your stuff. 9. They remember what you told them. So, don’t tell them anything you don’t want them to remember and remind you of later. See point about not guessing. 10. They don’t subscribe to buzz words. They want facts, solutions, numbers, and conviction. Spare the likes of “paradigm shifts,” “open kimonos,” or “eating your own dog food” and stay on topic. Freaked out? Don’t be. You can do this. It’s just a matter of developing the mindset and doing the footwork. The more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll be. And, it’ll make you better at everything else you do. And when you’re in there, remember, they were all in your shoes at some point, too! Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Recently, a list of companies that have the happiest employees was circulated online. The companies were commended on their ability to promote a healthy work environment and sustain work-life balance. Pfizer came out on top with Kaiser Permanente coming in second, followed by Texas Instruments. Looking at these lists, one wonders how these companies are able to promote such a positive productive environment for their employees.
Many would think this is due to compensation packages or other related perks. But then, is work only about earning money? Is it the most important aspect when employees join a new company? What about the other factors that play an important role in building a strong bond between the employee and the organization?
- A bond that stems from mutual appreciation and respect for the value system that both parties shape together
- A bond that is dependent on many diverse factors such as recognition, open communication, and teamwork
- A bond that strengthens over time when the employee performs well
The importance of core values is illustrated by a quote from famous author and inventor, Edward de Bono: "Effectiveness without values is a tool without a purpose."
This analogy really hits home. A purposeless tool is a worthless thing and so is a company without a campus—a culture that is formed on the basis of core principles.
Core values serve to constantly guide both the employee and the company in achieving their mutual goals, in a manner that is based on an ethical and ideological framework. Every business is different, and so are their core values. Having said that, there are some principles that are alike for all, even though they may be phrased differently.
Here are four such core values every organization should have:
1. Integrity And Ethics
Simply put, the two principles of integrity and ethics translate into doing the right thing, in an honest, fair, and responsible way. Building your entire business on the foundation of honesty and integrity goes a long way toward building a strong, trusting relationship with your employees, stakeholders, and customers.
Truthful conduct on everyone's part can create a strong, credible reputation for the company in the market, which is beneficial for everyone's interests.
Without dedicated employees, a company is nothing. Period.
Committed employees form the backbone of the entire corporation. They work together with the system in order to achieve growth and profitability.
A company has a responsibility toward its employees and, if one of its core principles is showing the utmost respect to its employees, it's likely management will have a low employee turnover rate.
Respecting all employees means respecting their individual human rights and privacy, and eliminating all kinds and forms of discrimination, whether based on religion, belief, race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, or physical disability. Moreover, ensuring a safe and healthy work environment for all employees is an important part of giving respect to them.
Many organizations across the globe adopt an attitude whereby the entire company interacts together like a close-knit family. Such an atmosphere helps boost the confidence of employees and makes them feel like an important, even indispensable, part of the organization. This inspires feelings of commitment and a drive to do even better.
3. Innovation (Not Imitation)
Companies that focus on being ahead of their competitors and introducing new ideas in the marketplace follow the principle of "innovation, not imitation." This is crucial if a company wants to be a trendsetter and introduce new products that consumers appreciate.
Employees in such companies are encouraged to be dynamic and come up with innovative ideas that can translate into successful products for the company. Constantly imitating others won't take the business far.
The thirst to constantly improve can be achieved if one is never satisfied. Organizations that have this principle as one of their core values try to provide a dynamic platform for their employees, where they can explore their creativity and skills and further enhance themselves.
While celebrating successes is an important thing, just sitting back and getting complacent over them is unacceptable for such companies. The reason why some companies habitually do well is because they know that employees are the most valuable resource.
Nothing compares to an employee who is dedicated and willing to go the extra mile. This requires a company to cultivate an environment that promotes respect and frowns upon politics. If you want to achieve this type of work environment at your company, these four core values are a great place to start.
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