How to Speak to Your CEO With Confidence
It amazes me how often I end up inadvertently “translating” on behalf of the heads of companies and divisions or at least offering some additional perspectives about what the CEO or Division Chief might be thinking. Stressed-out managers are often too close to a situation and can feel victimized by decisions made by higher-ups because they can only see their perspective and often have only a small portion of the information about what is really going on. It can be very stressful for everyone.
Whether you are trying to land a coveted role at the company of your dreams or just to speak up in a meeting, it might be helpful to expand your perspective on CEOS and tweak your thinking…. and communication.
Tips for speaking to your CEO, EVP or COO:
- Manage your fear and insecurities– the most basic confidence tips apply here as they do in any situation: Stand up straight, smile, listen, think before you talk and most importantly stop worrying about how you are coming across while you are in a conversation. No conversation is life threatening. Just relax and do your best.
- Stop faking it– there is no point trying to be something or somebody you are not. Chances are the CEO, President of the Board etc. got there because they have some experience in the world and they will see right through any attempt to “manufacture a different personality. “And, if you are working on #1 above keep in mind that trying to fake who you are only adds to your fear and insecurities. Try to be your authentic, professional self.
- Stop complaining-witnessing people who use the impromptu meeting or interaction with the CEO to whine about the company or industry is just painful. Instead use the opportunity to listen, tell her about an idea or result you are excited about or provide a solution. The way you handle this can either increase your chances of being heard in the future or create a negative association with the very site of you. Your call.
- Ask great questions– this is really the secret to any relationship—personal or business. Ask people really good, relevant questions and then listen intently to their answers. Magic.
- Try to find a little empathy- in today’s business environment there is an excellent chance that the CEO or VP is under a crushing amount of pressure–coming from a variety of areas. Pressure and heavy responsibility often lead to some bizarre behavior. While there is no excuse for abusive or violent behavior—tempers can flare with all of that pressure and people can behave irrationally. Sometimes it simply helps to imagine what kind of pressure that person might be experiencing and let that perspective shift change your communication approach. CEOs are people too.