Having a meeting with the CEO of your company can be a daunting experience – especially if it’s the first time you’ve ever sat down one-on-one with the big boss.
While it is important to be yourself, a meeting with a busy CEO isn’t the moment to waste time. So it’s important to be prepared, rehearsed and know what it is that you want to achieve.
“For me, the difference between communication that matters and wasteful chatter depends on what as well as how something is expressed,” he said.
Here are 7 things you should consider before your next meeting, conversation or phone call with any chief executive, according to McDermott.
1. Lead with an answer, not a question.
The fastest way to make yourself relevant to a CEO is to be the catalyst for a solution. Leaders hear a lot about what’s going wrong. Don’t add to that list. Instead, begin by saying you’ve got an answer to a problem; quickly explain the situation then focus on how to make it better.
2. Have a point of view, don’t come looking for one.
You have expertise and information a CEO does not; knowing your perspective helps a chief executive make better choices. While we may disagree with you, sharing your perspective earns you more esteem than if you always wait to agree with what we think.
3. Keep it simple, don’t create complexity.
More is not more. In emails, state issues and required actions in one paragraph, deleting extra words and tedious attachments. In meetings, don’t bring a posse of people when two will do, and talk “with” a CEO, don’t just “present.” In general, non-value-added actions, words, and participants destroy conversations—and companies.
4. Emphasise customers, not internal operations.
Today’s CEO is intensely interested in how to improve the customer experience. Correspondence that makes this connection clear will stand out. Show how “X” ultimately benefits our customer, and you’re more likely to capture my attention.
5. Copy your boss on correspondence, don’t make us guess who knows what.
CEOs dislike bureaucracy, but we respect people’s roles. We need to know an issue went through proper channels before it came to us. Copying your manager and relevant others tells me who’s on board. It also ensures no surprises up the inevitable chain of command — because no one likes surprises, especially a CEO. There will always be the open door, of course, but be very selective in how you choose to use it.
6. Time communication carefully, don’t assume a CEO is in your zone.
In our global economy, a chief executive can travel thousands of miles in a single day. Before you send that text or place that call, consider the CEO’s location. A 4 a.m. ring in Beijing or a conference call planned for midnight in Munich better be urgent. Showing empathy for a world traveler gets you and your message more respect.
7. Know your desired outcome, or don’t start the dialogue.
Imagine the exchange you want to have before you have it, then frame the message with the end in mind. If you don’t know the destination, you’ll have a circular conversation. So don’t wing it. If you take time to anticipate and plan, you’re more likely to get the answer you desire and the admiration you deserve. Imagination begets the event.
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