Leading Executive Conversations Part I: The Executive Perspective

A meeting with an executive can be different than a meeting with a manager.  You’ve got to connect with the executive’s perspective including their challenges, their opportunities and their overall strategy for building results.

Ultimately, success in executive meetings is attitudinal.  You have to believe that you have a right to be there and that you have something of value to offer them. Effective meetings are more flexible than presentations.  You need to be as prepared for what you will hear and learn as for what you will say.

The starting place is to understand the perspective of the executive that you are meeting. Perspective tells you the executives’ priorities and what it takes to bring value to each of them.

For example, CEOs tend to be externally focused on their industry and the trends that are driving business strategies.  They value ideas and examples outside their company and use external context and perspective to make decisions. The COO is driving lines of business and has specific metrics in mind for accelerating growth or managing costs. He will make decisions based on your ability to impact or influence those metrics. The CPO (Chief People Officer) is managing people needs against business goals and has to attract and retain the right talent with a competitive blend of benefits.  All the C-suite executives are looking ahead and trying to leverage what’s to come rather than micro managing what happened yesterday.

As we work with people on executive-level conversations, there are two questions that we get asked most often.

First, people worry, “Will I have the answer for anything this executive might ask me?”

You should definitely be prepared but rarely is this conversation a deep dive into information.  Top level conversations are about strategies and the big picture initiatives that will drive them.  For example, if you are the human resources manager and you come to talk to me about a new step you want to implement in our hiring process, I’m not likely to want to know how you will roll-out the step.  And, if you bring too much detail on implementations, you’ll quickly lose me.  Instead, I’m more interested in thinking about the impact of the step across all our constituencies.  Top executives don

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