Executive Presence

Communicating as an Executive

Favor decisive and concise communication. Focusing on your written allows you the space to edit and analyze your communication generally1. This prepares you for synchronous communication.

Be definite: “This plan is good” not “I think this is a good plan”.

When caught off guard in the meeting, it is acceptable to demur assuming you couch it in the correct shibboleths. “Excellent idea … I’m going to take it as an action item … and get back to you X”

Ways to practice/improve

  • Peer/manager feedback
  • Recording yourself
  • Copy what those around you do well
  • Prep for meetings

Anti-patterns

  • Avoid the passive voice
  • Intonations that leave questions about certainty
  • Avoid “working out the issue” in executive settings. This may be appropriate for peer and report level meetings, but executives will expect certainty and next actions

Communicating to Executives

  • Prioritize your problems, only bring them the most important2
  • Be concise2
  • Always prepare a shared written agenda2
  • As Dave Kellog notes, answer the question3!

Bring me solutions, not problems

When bringing a problem to an executive provide proper context. This context should be just enough to understand the situation (they do not need every detail, just the important ones)2. Bringing solutions not problems demonstrates initiative which shows an executive that they can monitor and course correct rather than actively lead (which they don’t want to do)2.

Avoid bringing politics into your communication with executives. They will likely be unaware of the politics below them and view them as a waste of time/productivity2.

Be “emotionally optimistic” when communicating with executives. Executives are bombarded problems, and likely you need them for one. Avoid cynicism, defeatism, and bitterness in your communication with them2.


References

1.
Jade Rubick. Coordination models - tools for getting groups to work well together. at https://www.rubick.com/coordination-models/ (2021).
2.
SaaSy, S. Dont Bring Me Problems, Bring Me Solutions. Stay saasy Blog at https://blog.staysaasy.com/p/dont-bring-me-problems-bring-me-solutions (2023).
3.
Kellogg, D. The One Key to Dealing with Senior Executives: Answer the Question! Kellblog at https://kellblog.com/2012/01/17/the-one-key-to-dealing-with-senior-executives-answer-the-question/ (2012).