There’s nothing more frustrating than the feeling of not being heard. That’s why, when it comes to communicating with people in the C-suite, it can be soul-crushing when one of your well-thought-out ideas is shot down right in front of you without so much as an explanation.
It could be that your ideas are rubbish – but a far more feasible reason why your suggestions are being dismissed is because of the manner in which you communicate them, rather than the ideas themselves.
Communicating your points persuasively to the higher ups is a crucial workplace skill that needs mastering. Here are some worthwhile tips to influence senior leaders:
Speak their language.
To influence senior leaders within your organisation, your first port of call is to gain a proper understanding of who they are – and to do that, you’re going to need to understand what they want.
By looking at their job title, function, team and personality, try and get a good grasp of what it is they want to achieve in their roles. If you’re working with them on a particular project, imagine what sits at the top of their priority list, then consider how you can help them to achieve it.
And when you do speak with them, tailor your messaging and vocabulary to them and their goals, and cover off the items that are mostly likely to interest them first. When you do share an idea or solution to a problem, make a direct connection between your key talking points and their key priorities.
It’s also worth paying attention to how they digest information. For instance, when you send out an email or hand around a document, do they read each and every word you’ve written out, or do they skim down to the bottom and try to get straight to the point? By understanding how someone absorbs information, you can properly prepare your pitches to them in a way that’s more likely to influence their decision.
Know when to speak up and when to shut up.
Senior leaders are people too, with their own workloads and stresses to manage, and while they might be incredibly good at their jobs, they’re not experts in everything and anything, so don’t expect them to be. In fact, they could actually be looking to you to make recommendations or guide them through the process.
There will be instances where you’ll need to speak up and share your opinion, such as if you know of a consequence to your boss’s stance or decision that they are currently unaware of.
However, instead of stating something outright, one useful tip is to phrase the problem like it is a question.
Another option is to pose an array of different alternative solutions to the problem, without giving away your favoured solution, and let them claim the idea as their own.
Follow everything up in writing.
While meetings are a good place to discuss ideas and problem-solve, it’s worth remembering that spoken agreements can easily go out the window if you don’t reinforce what you’re saying through other channels. For example, after a meeting or discussion, it’s worth communicating your main points and a list of allocated actions over email to everyone involved.
It’s also worth finding out how each leader within your organisation prefers to communicate – they’re far more likely to agree to your ideas when you suggest them at the right time and place.
For instance, some people might want to be updated on a regular basis while others might prefer a brief overview every few weeks or months.
While it’s not always easy, learning how to influence senior leaders is a skill that will stay with you throughout your entire career – so it’s worth getting these basics right as soon as you can.