Five Behaviors Needed When Communicating with Executives

Image of communications: Listen Carefully; Be a Good Listener; Pay Attention; Listen Closely; Eyes and Ears Open
Image of communications: Listen Carefully; Be a Good Listener; Pay Attention; Listen Closely; Eyes and Ears Open

1. Instead of the academic structure, use the business/media structure to communicate

When presenting to executives, start with your recommendations and then explain the conclusions that led you to the recommendations. Here’s why: Executives are busy and do not have the time or the interest to listen to your step-by-step journey.

Image compares academic writing to business writing; academic starts with introduction; business starts with recommendations
Image compares academic writing to business writing; academic starts with introduction; business starts with recommendations

2. For email, begin with the message and then the action needed

For each email, ensure that your first sentence is your message and your second one states the action or request. Everything else should support your first two sentences. Often practitioners and even executives unintentionally hide the message and action in the middle or the end of the communication.

Image of how to write communications: Start with the message, then the action, and finally the details
Image of how to write communications: Start with the message, then the action, and finally the details

3. For executive training requests, listen for the intent

When executives want training, do the following:

  1. Use empathy. Assure them that you hear and understand the problem.
  2. Explain that you can resolve the intent for the requested training.
  3. Ask for permission to talk with managers and employees so that you can better understand the problem and successfully design the right solutions. Obtain a list of recommended people.
  4. Ask: If you come up with less costly ways to resolve the problem in place of or in addition to training, would they be open to this? Tell them that you want solutions to have the least amount of organizational intrusion as possible.

4. Speak their language

Listen to how the executives talk. Ask yourself:

  1. How do they label employees, teams, departments, technology, and processes?
  2. What industry jargon do they use?
  3. Do they use human performance technology, process improvement, or training terms?
  4. What metrics are important to them?

5. Persuade with data

Provide data that is meaningful to executives.

  1. Use comparative industry trends to identify opportunities.
  2. Present evidence of the current state.

Finally

As you adapt to these behaviors, pay attention to executive behaviors. Use this feedback to adjust what you do. By doing so, you will be on your way to developing a valued collaborative relationship.

Notation

For the first image in this blog, I purchased the usage rights from Shutterstock. Please do not use these images without purchasing usage rights.

About the author

Gary is a Leadership Author, Researcher, Consultant, and Podcast Guest. His latest book, What the Heck Is Leadership and Why Should I Care?, is available in paperback, eBook, and audiobook. You can learn more about Gary and his other books at https://www.garyadepaul.com.

Written by

Gary is a speaker, author, researcher, and leadership futurist. https://www.garyadepaul.com

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