Executive encounters are a great opportunity to demonstrate your skills. Gaining access to executives, especially the C-Suite, can be challenging. Their time is limited and they have a lot of demands on it. As an aspiring leader, there are ways to get more face time with executives and for you to be ready when the opportunities arises. Taking a few simple steps ahead of time will prepare you for when you chances comes.
You Are Always Being Evaluated
Encounters with executives, planned or spontaneous, are always your chance to shine. Executives evaluate you in every interaction. This may not be conscious, but they are paying close attention. They remember if you rambled, sounded unprepared, or lacked conviction in your ideas . Executives discuss people they are thing of promoting with each other. Every interaction with every executive matters because they will remember and it will influence their decision to promote you or not. They are looking for people who not only appear polished and together, but actually are. That means you need to ready with something appropriate to say and be able to say it clearly.
Prepare for Executive Encounters
Every executive interaction is an opportunity to show you have what it takes to be promoted. Showing executives you know your stuff and that you can clearly, and succinctly communicate it is critical. Executives are always busy. Being able to get your point across quickly is a critical skill you must develop. No executive wants to listen to you ramble about your ideas or fumble through a conversation. They simply do not have the time, and many do not have the patience.
When the opportunity to engage with an executive arises, be ready. Have a few talking points about your team, your project, or some other key issue ready to go. You want to speak about something that is relevant to the business or to the executive specifically. The last thing you want to have happen is you draw a blank and waste your opportunity with idle chit chat. Neither make a good impression and you may not get the chance to engage again anytime soon.
Keep any executive encounter to one topic, especially spontaneous encounters. Get your point across quickly and clearly. If you go off on tangents or start discussing multiple ideas, you will not appear well organized and you will likely lose the executive’s attention (and irritate him or her). Make you you know what you are talking about and keep your points to things you understand and know. Demonstrating a command of the information and being able to convey it clearly really shows leadership potential.
If you have a great idea or a recommendation, make sure you can quickly tie it to something the executive cares about—usually this is either a way to make money or save money. Extra points if it is happens to fits with an executive’s approach, mission, or current project. Keep it simple and avoid going on and on about every detail. Saying less in these situations creates curiosity. You will spark curiosity and they will ask you to find time on their calendar to share more, or send them a memo with details.
Respect Executive Time
Executives have a lot of demands on their time. Try to avoid cornering them in the hallway or launch at them with pet project that is irrelevant to their goals. You may want to engage them when they have something else on their mind. Maybe they came from a particularly tense meeting or are trying to work out a particularly thorny issue. Be conscious of this and do not just barge forward. Executive will notice if you are being insensitive, just as they will notice if you are perceptive enough to realize now might not be the best time.
Messing this up can be damaging and have lasting effects. Some easy steps to take are to pay attention to the executive’s demeanor. Does she look preoccupied? Is he typing into his phone? Do not interrupt or join an existing conversation just because the executive happens to be in the lunchroom. Read the situation and their body language to gauge if this is the best time.
Know What You Want to Say to Executives
Another consideration for executive encounters is to think about what it is you want to share. Is the information time-sensitive and critical, or do you just want to introduce yourself? Are you sharing a valuable idea that will improve the business or just a positive tip bit about your team? Be thoughtful about what you are going to say and the executive’s time. Always keep it focused on business. If the executive wants to continue the conversation into lighter or personal topics, let them lead in that direction.
If the executive is interrupted during your conversation, accept it and bow out graciously. Do not try to keep the conversation going. Something far more pressing likely just came up and it would hurt you far more to try and force them to listen to you. Executives will remember your thoughtfulness and will be far more receptive in your next encounter.
Final Thoughts on Executive Encounters
There may be times when you absolutely need executive face time. Perhaps there is an emergency that will have a material business impact or some other critical issue. In these cases, you should reach out to the executive’s assistant to see if you can get on their calendar. If the situation is immediate, then reach out to another executive. If it is less urgent, request 10 minutes to raise your idea or issue at the next staff meeting.
Positive executive encounters will gain you the attention you want as an aspiring leader. Be prepared with clear talking points, and communicate them clearly. This will built your credibility as a leader. Being respective of executive time will gain you trust and will help you be seen as someone with strong executive potential yourself.