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Leadership Series: Four Executive Communication Tips to Propel You to the Next Level

Have you ever felt a bit of culture shock after receiving a promotion? It’s not unreasonable if you have. The way we interact as an employee or middle manager is relatively different from how you must communicate once you are a senior leader. For the recently promoted, this can come as a culture shock.

I’m by no means saying you’re not a fit for your new promotion. Rather, as with all new jobs, it takes time to adjust to our new environment. At each stage of the career ladder, our perception changes as we better understand the needs of the organization.

If you’re looking for some insight into executive communication, you’ve come to the right place! Here are my top four tips to communicate when you are entering the executive ranks.

Listen more speak less

This is my humble opinion, one of the top issues amongst new leaders I coach. And to be fair, it makes complete sense, because many have been promoted from successfully “executing” and “directing.” The fact of the matter is that when joining the executive ranks, it is not so much about asserting yourself with various speaking points instead or giving your opinion about how something needs to be solved. Instead, listening attentively, pausing, and asking probing questions are going to be much more effective when you are at that level.

Debate then own it

Think back to the last time you encountered an indecisive leader who was constantly afraid to take a stance on any particular issue. If I have to take a guess, I’ll dare to say that as a client of mine once told me, "It’s a maddening experience, akin to walking in a minefield while in a deep fog….in other words, not fun at all.”

Complete management by consensus is not conducive and in fact only leads to paralysis and lower morale. To be 100% clear, I’m not advocating for a top down approach. Instead, I’m advocating for a healthy debate of new ideas yet, once a path forward is identified, to own it and move forward with that decision.

At the executive level, it’s easy to fall into this same habit. You want to be respectful of your new peers and boss, yes, but you don’t want to appear so respectful that you fail to demonstrate any semblance of confidence.

Leaders control the weather

On the other hand, it’s important to remember that leaders control the weather. You don’t want to come across as not approachable, moody or aloof. Remembering that as a leader you are not only representing yourself but the company is very important to keep top of mind. This is particularly true overall when things go south and it’s easy to let stress bubble to the surface. Instead, as I tell my clients do a quick “reality reframe” which is a technique I like to teach. It consists of pausing, identifying the emotion, naming it, and choosing a response that is more aligned with your values, as opposed to letting your feelings run the show.

Context may not be necessary

As you can probably see, there’s a fine line you need to walk with your attitude. Likewise, executive communication leads with the headline. Let’s assume you’ve identified a product line that needs to be discontinued. When meeting with those decision-makers, get right to the point.

“Based on my analysis, product X costs more money than it brings in and I think we should consider discontinuing it.”

A numbers-driven CEO, such as Apple’s Tim Cook (with his extensive background in supply chain management), will respond better to an approach like this.

Share details when asked

That statement may be all that is needed to move forward on your suggestion. However, it’s also possible that now you will need to dive deeper into your justification. Be prepared with data and applicable analytics.

This demonstrates your value as a member of the executive team. You’re already looking out for the company by presenting yourself as a thoughtful, logic-driven addition to the C-Level.

Master executive communication in preparation for your next promotion

As I’m sure you know by now, promotions tend to come with mastery of your prior position. As you aim to climb the corporate ladder, adjusting to your new role will demonstrate your ability to adapt to new situations. It’s a great way to prepare yourself for whatever your next promotion may look like.

Just don’t forget to be respectful and humble. There’s a fine line between overconfidence and arrogance. Temper your attitude by remembering where you came from while recognizing that you earned your spot at the table. Keep executive communication on point, sharing details when and only when the other party is ready for them. Finally, when working with your superior, remember that they will have the final say even if you’re technically right.

It’s at this career stage where so many realize that they need a coach to work with them regularly, helping them navigate their newfound positions. I’d love to help you too. Contact me via my website and I’ll set up a time to chat with you, to go over your new role, and how to help you best navigate the executive-level position you’ve worked so hard to earn.


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