“Dr Sabine,” tell me “Do I look like father Christmas?” My client Paul (name changed) put a smile on my face. The 5.8 foot, slim, dark haired guy in his mid forties didn’t look anything like the guy we all know from the Coca-Cola ads.
I had to say he didn’t, and we were right in the middle of our coaching conversation …
The session was a sharp reminder of the mistakes executives, who are one or two levels below the executive board, make when what they intend is just the oppositite. They want to leave a good impression but more often than not fail to do so. Instead of using the limited time they have with a member of an executive board to leave a good impression they all too often fall into the traps and do what all their colleagues do.
In this short article I want to highlight three strategies that will help you to increase your impact and leave the right impression.
Strategy 1: Change perspective – put yourself in the shoes of a member of the board
The day of a member of a board in a large corporation is made up of 20 minute slots. It is by far not uncommon that s/he has 20 meetings in the diary in one day. People come, people go.
Paul was at the end of a long day. He could not think of a single person who he talked with who cared to put her/himself in his shoes and bring something of value to him.
He wanted to explore in his coaching session what he could do to educate executives how to best use the time they have with him. For him it was sheer madness how all these people choose to use the time with him. Paul described to me how he would have never dared to have a meeting with a member of a board and waste it to complain, ask for something and serve excuses for weak results.
He employed a simple trick.
Before any meeting with a member of the executive board he spent a good half hour to put himself in the shoes of the board member. What keeps her/him awake at night? What issues does s/he currently have on the table? Where does his/her pressure come from – investors, competition, suppliers, union …?
Once he was clear in his own head about the real current concerns of the board member he started to craft his key messages.
Strategy 2: Think results and achievements rather than what you have done
Most clients want to talk about what they have done, how hard it was to get there, what obstacles they had to overcome and how they struggled with the limited resources. Over 80% of their thinking and preparation circles around the input factors and only 20% output i.e. results. This is exactly what Paul experienced.
Now listen to what Paul did before he was appointed to the executive team.
At the start of any project I was involved in I established the baseline. I worked together with other departments to get numbers on the table. At times this was not easy and quite tricky but I became friends with our Controlling guys and was always quite smart in making use of consultants who were running around in our organisation (he laughed and had a twinkle in his eye).
When Paul worked on any project he tracked numbers and at times even created key performance indicators. This way he could always report actual results.
He then used the time he had with members of the executive board to talk about the actual results and communicated clearly how they relate to the issues that concern the member of the executive team (Strategy 1).
Strategy 3: Communicate concisely
Most board members are quick on their feet and can cut through the chase … they want the essence and not all the waffle. Focus on the key points and take the first two strategies to heart.
Because Paul put himself in the shoes of his board members and knew the numbers he could communicate concisely.
He described that this actually allowed him to get to know the board members as there was always time to talk about sports, holidays and the weekend. He even described a situation where he looked at his watch, saw that he just used 12 minutes and said, “You know what Sue (name changed), I presented you with all the information why don´t you just take a little walk instead of listening to me.” He managed again to put a smile on someone’s face.
When I listened to Paul I can clearly see why he got where he is.
I would like to help people who are eager to develop their career, have an impact in the board room and leave the right impression. I believe that these three strategies will take you a long way and maybe get you even a seat on the table.
Contact Dr Sabine Dembkowski to discover how Better Boards can help you to make your mark.
“At the centre of our attention is the individual leader. All of our services are designed to help him/her to create value in their visible and exposed roles.”
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