“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” ~James Humes~
Mei had just scheduled a one-on-one meeting with an upper-level executive in her company. She didn’t get much face time with high-level executives, so when communicating with them, she knew she had to make it count. She understood that talking with senior executives was a great strategy for boosting her visibility at work. She immediately called her mentor and asked for advice. Her mentor walked her through these six essential strategies for making the most of the meeting.
- Get to the point. Make your point clear at the start, rather than slowly meandering toward it. By letting the exec know exactly why you’re sitting down together, you’ll make the most of her time. Don’t be long-winded—keep your words short and sweet. Mentally rehearse what you’ll say beforehand, and write notes if that helps you, to keep yourself on point as you present your ideas. Presenting your ideas eloquently, and showing how they align with the big picture, will impress the exec. Plus, you’ll leave time in the conversation for dialogue.
- Ask questions to gain clarity about what the executive needs to hear. This will allow you to customize your message to what the leader needs to know. For instance, ask if he’s familiar with a project before launching into a description of it, so you’re not telling him things he already knows. At the beginning of your session, ask if he has particular concerns or interests that you could speak to. If he really wants to hear about project X, and you spend fifteen minutes talking about project Z, you might not have impressed him as much as you hoped.
- Listen to what the executive is and isn’t saying. When communicating with high-level executives, you’ll get feedback not only from what they say, but from what they don’t say. If the executive hasn’t commented on what you see as the most exciting part of your plan, try to discern her feelings about it. If you sense hesitation about an idea, ask how she feels about it, so you’ll have the opportunity to provide additional data or other information to back you up.
- Be natural. Your voice and body language should radiate confidence, but don’t act like you’re on a stage. Execs will see right through that. If you look like you’re performing, they’ll try to figure out what’s amiss. Be optimistic but honest about areas that need improvement.
- Let the executive know how to support you. Make the executive feel like an ongoing part of your team by letting him know how he can support you. You might need support in bringing your ideas to higher-level executives. Asking for help, and voicing your needs clearly, shows you’re serious about bringing your plan to fruition.
- Make a follow-up plan. The exec will feel like an ongoing part of your project if you have a plan for how you’ll check in about it. Set a follow-up meeting a month out, or say that you’ll email him once you reach a particular milestone to talk about the next steps.
By using these strategies, Mei came across as professional and competent to the executive—just the kind of person this leader wants to work with in the future. Plus, her mentor noted, communicating well with executives in high-level positions could open up new opportunities for her in the organization. The executive might even become an advocate for her in the future if they continue developing a strong working relationship.
Have you had the chance to speak with high-level executives in your organization? Did you use any of these strategies? Share your experiences here.
“I believe ambition is not a dirty work, it’s believing in yourself and your abilities. Imagine this: what would happen if we were all brave enough to believe in our own ability, to be a little more ambitious. I think the world would change.” ~ Reese Witherspoon ~
Aaron felt like he was stuck. The job just seemed like a treadmill. The same thing over and over. When he took the job 8 years ago, he had visions of promotions and advancement. Now? Not so much.
As Aaron took stock of his career he decided to combat the stagnation. Surely there was a way to get around it. He just couldn’t figure it out on his own. He hired Joel to be his executive coach.
Part of it involved recording exactly what he was doing so he could be prepared and present it as needed.
- Sharing accomplishments. Words disappear and can’t always be remembered. Aaron saw the value in sharing his accomplishments through writing. He wrote a weekly message updating management on the projects he was working on.
He included the challenges he’d overcome and the progress he’d made. The make sure to explain how his work affected the progress of the job. And how the job would impact the company. This gave Aaron confidence his job was valuable and productive
- Meeting Preparation. Aaron doesn’t think fast on his feet. He works better when he has a chance to mull over ideas. This is true of most introverts. So Aaron decided to write out notes about what he wanted to say before meetings.
If you want to say something at a meeting or event, take the time to write it out beforehand. This way you can organize your thoughts, focus on what is essential, and not be fumbling for words when it’s your turn to speak. When you have something prepared, it makes it more likely that you will speak clearly and professionally. And you say what you intended to say.
- Prepare for and schedule one-on-one meetings. Again, if you have an agenda you want to cover, writing an outline of the topics can give you confidence going into the meeting. One-on-ones are a great opportunity to talk about your work and how it affects the company.
This is a great time to discuss your concerns about your career stagnation. Meetings with your boss can help you formulate a plan for your transition into the next step of your career.
- Volunteer for committees and events. Participating in a committee or helping to host a conference or charity event translates to an abundance of networking opportunities. Aaron found that committees and events gave him the opportunity to meet new people, talk about his work, and put his name and face in front of people who wouldn’t normally notice him.
After working this program for several months, Aaron feels much more hopeful. He sees his career stagnation breaking apart. His boss is on board with his goals for a promotion. Many more people know of him and his work. He’s received more praise and people are paying more attention to what he says.
“This is what I was looking for,” Aaron said. “Coaching really helped me. I can’t believe how much more excited I am about my job and its potential.”
How have you pushed back against career stagnation?
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
~ C.G. Jung ~
Cassidy had overheard some snide comments. She knew people were making snap judgements, based on gossip, about her that just weren’t true. How could she change negative work perceptions and get her co-workers to think more positively about her?
She knew she was a good team player and worked hard for the company. What did she need to do to help others see her in this light? In her mind, she reviewed the negative comments.
- No backbone. Hadn’t she stood up for the idea in the meeting? But the person who said that wasn’t at the meeting. He had seen her agreeing with the boss on several other positions.
Cassidy thought of herself as a team player. She collaborated well with others. She decided she would be more visible in both the collaboration and the support she gave others. In her written communications— that would certainly go to her critic— she would be clear with her reasoning both when she agreed and when she disagreed on a topic.
- Doesn’t speak up or share. Cassidy recognized that she often was the quiet one at meetings. As an introvert, sometimes it took time to think about an idea. She didn’t want to speak until she’d considered all the angles. By that time, others had already said what she planned to say.
Again, Cassidy felt her written communications could help change that negative perception. She also decided she could go to meetings better prepared. She could consider possible ideas and processes and come up with opinions she could share to generate the discussion.
- Dominates the meetings. On the other hand, Cassidy thought Jerold talked way too much. She didn’t get room to share her ideas. As she considered, she realized those negative feelings weren’t 100% true. Jerold thought he had great ideas… and he did.
But she would have a better perception of him if he would pause longer and give others a chance to add their voice. Or better yet, if they had a system of going around the table and letting each person add to the discussion.
- Doesn’t really add value to the company. That one hurt! Negative perceptions like that could push her out of her job. Cassidy though of herself as modest. She didn’t go around bragging all the time.
However, she realized she needed to be more open about what she was accomplishing. It was important she let her boss and her co-workers know exactly what she was working on, the effort she was putting into it and the results she was producing.
- Narrow perspective. Cassidy had been with the company long enough to know how they wanted things done. Maybe it did look like she didn’t think outside the box. But to her it made sense to stay focused on what had worked successfully in the past.
Cassidy decided to be more open to looking at other ideas. She could be open to reviewing their merits and see how they meshed with the companies goals.
Cassidy worked hard to change the negative perceptions she’d heard in the office. She was pleased to hear more recently some very positive comments about her work and presence in the company.
If you want to change your perception in your workspace, connect with Joel for his career advancement coaching. He has a proven method for success.
Have you had to deal with negative comments or perceptions? How did you handle it?
Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all. ~ Peter Drucker ~
Kevin had been hired to turn the company around. He arrived to find a sluggish, apathetic staff. Most were warry of the change and unwilling to stick their neck out for anything.
Kevin moved immediately to work on the three things that would most affect your employee’s productivity. He knew he had to energize the workforce. He had to learn who could rise to the top and which employees are worth letting go.
The PVI Model— Perception, Visibility, Influence— seemed designed to empower employees to take back control of their careers. Keven felt sure once they saw the impact they could have in influencing those around them, they would become energized and increase productivity.
- Perception. Kevin started educating his workforce on both how he perceived them and what he knew they were capable of. He encouraged them to look within themselves for their strengths and talents.
“Sharing what you know and can do is not bragging,” he said. “It helps us use your strengths in key places. You can enjoy your work more and we can produce more when we match your strengths to our needs.”
Kevin was quick to value employees who spent the time looking at how they were perceived and then acted in a way to increase positive responses.
- Visibility. Sometimes it was hard to see who really had the greatest talents. It wasn’t just those who talked about it the most. But it was essential for Kevin to find the rising stars. So he deliberately cultivated a culture of people willing to increase their visibility.
Workers sent in a weekly report of their accomplishments. They created a large “brag board” for employees to pin “atta-boys” for themselves and co-workers. They took a few minutes at meetings for attendees to tell their greatest accomplishment of the week.
Soon, Kevin had a firm grasp of those employees who were contributing to productivity.
- Influence. Kevin saw the influence of the more confident employees rub off on the apathetic ones. He encouraged team work and mentoring. Open discussions allowed employees to influence decisions made at higher levels.
As the workers saw their increasing influence, they began to feel empowered. Kevin felt the energy increasing week by week. Workers took more responsibility for themselves and their projects.
Friendly competition and rivalry made each team seek to do their best. Kevin cross- pollinated the teams so the best influencers could enrich weaker teams.
“The pay-off for the organization was huge,” Kevin said. “This PVI Model had a major effect on the employee’s productivity, motivation, and staff retention. After just a few months, it feels like a completely different company.”
Kevin commented on the tone, the buzz of the office. Workers came up and thanked him for making such a difference. “They even told me they’d recommended their friends come work here.” Kevin said. “That’s such a contrast to the brain drain I faced when I arrived.”
“Perception, visibility and influence just make the company run better— on every level,” he concluded.
What parts of your company culture affect your productivity? What makes your employees most productive?
“Phrases like ‘overworked and underpaid’ perpetuate that feeling.” ~ Lena Bottos ~
Steven put in extra-long hours on the project at work. It was highly technical and exceptionally difficult. When he was done, his boss offered no praise and Steven found himself feeling totally underappreciated.
He felt upset and bitter. How could they not appreciate all the work he was doing? He fumed for a few days. Then he stopped to figure out how he could get back on even keel. He really liked the kind work he was doing. He needed to find ways to be happy again.
Steven started working on a list. What could he control?
- Enjoyment of work. Steven decided he could focus on his enjoyment of the work and the satisfaction it brought him. He could savor the tough solution to the problem and acknowledge that he did a great job. Even if others didn’t see it, it didn’t diminish his work.
- Praise yourself. Write down what you accomplished each day. Tell yourself you did a good job. Even say it out loud, “That was GOOD work!”
- Reward yourself. Steven decided that after each project he accomplished, he would reward himself with a nice dinner out or an extra round of golf.
- Expect less. In truth, people seldom get praised for doing the job they are supposed to do. Bosses are busy. Getting paid and lack of criticism are implicit signs you are doing a good job.
As Steven worked on these tasks, it seemed to help a little, but he still felt overworked and underappreciated at work.
He talked to a friend to get more suggestions. His mentor asked a deep question. “How long have you felt this way? Is it the job, or have you felt undervalued for a long time?” Steven through back to the last jobs he’d had. Yes, it was a common problem.
His friend suggested this deep-seeded feeling could come from childhood rejection or lack of validation long ago. The friend suggested journaling to reveal the source and work to overcome it. Steven also considered counseling to quickly overcome this and move forward.
The counselor talked about “love languages” and suggested there are “appreciation languages” as well. “What does appreciation look like to you?” he asked. The boss may send a “Good job” email, but if you expect a promotion or public accolades, you may still feel underappreciated.
Steven decided to talk to his boss about the kind of validation he was looking for. At the same time, he worked to make it clearer to his boss exactly what he was doing. He realized the boss could not show appreciation if he didn’t understand exactly what Steven was doing.
Finally, Steven decided that if he valued appreciation he should extend it to others as well. He made a plan to praise his co-workers for the good work they were doing. Then, he decided even those below him and his boss were pretty overworked and deserved praise as well.
He found that when he praised others he felt better. He also noticed they seemed quicker to offer affirmation to the work he was doing. Three months later Steven looked back. He realized he no longer felt overworked and underappreciated at work. These seven solutions had helped him feel more valued and more included. His enjoyment at work had increased.
If you are struggling with feelings of overwork or being underappreciated contact Joel for executive coaching. He can guide you in further ways to get the recognition you deserve.
What have you done when you’ve felt over worked and underappreciated?