In the first part of the series, What You Must Know To Connect With Senior Leaders, we explored how to reach out to your most senior influencers and network like a boss.
In this second part, we are going to explore the conversation points you need to master to build trust and credibility.
A relationship with a senior influencer in your organisation is like a magic carpet; it can take you from A to B in seconds. When done well, it can have a significant impact.
But…it’s intimidating to have a powerful conversation with the C-Suite (or anyone with influence). They’re sharp, they’re smart and they’re…busy. They have conversations with people far more important than you, who pitch ideas far more interesting than yours.
Or so you think.
In reality, the ones who get their attention don’t have a magic formula. They make each conversation pleasant and insightful, and land their proposal at the best moment.
Want the same level of confidence? Want to land a few insightful ideas?
Use powerful conversations to build trust.
1. Be helpful
You want to make it easy to start a conversation that will, hopefully, help your exec move strategic plans forward.
In a powerful conversation, your message illustrates how you can help, and why a busy leader should trust you to do so.
To achieve this, ensure they are interested in the topic in the first place! You should always tailor your message to the person you want to talk to. It’s even more important when you’re trying to build trust with an influencer; you want the conversation to be so powerful that you’ll be remembered.
Make it all about them – their plans, their opinions, their people, their achievements. The only exception? The facts you need to back up your proposal.
2. Always, always stick to facts
Facts make the whole thing real.
You can’t generalise or conceptualise big theories.
Because you don’t have the authority/credibility to do so (yet).
Don’t get ahead of yourself. It takes a bit of small talk, and a few powerful conversations to build trust. Once your seniors know you a little better, they will naturally pick your brains. Then you will have space to expose your best ideas.
But in the early days of your career and your relationship, the only thing that will get you a foot in the door is to be useful and factual. This will position you as a mature individual, who takes the time to build a positive relationship (not another know-it-all they want to crush like an insect).
3. See the business under their light
Senior leaders have a strategic view of how the business runs. Therefore, the first shift you need to make is adapting your communication. You need to be aware of their direction of travel, and show you can make strategy real in the day to day.
Irrespective of the conversation, you can do this in two easy ways:
– spot the main outcomes and articulate how navigating this change can be beneficial for the company’s strategy
– show that you’re aware of the people who need to be involved
The secret of a powerful conversation is to align message and level of seniority. But it’s also effective to be seen as a peer they can trust!
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4. Don’t forget that “it could work”
The one thing all these execs have in common is a very good memory.
If you do the job right (using a few powerful conversations to build trust before you pitch), they will listen to your idea. Then they’ll think about it, and pop up at your desk, days later, to ask you how to make it a reality.
I can tell you from experience that landing a life-changing job in the coffee shop queue is a real thing!
Be prepared to talk about your project anytime, anywhere. You will have only a few minutes to convince, so there will be no time for the theory behind what you’re saying.
Think ‘elevator speech’; why, what, how. That’s 30 seconds. And then, the most useful and underrated sentence in the corporate world…
“So, what do you think?”
(I love it…because people never dare to say “well, that’s crap” – they want to be positive).
That makes less than a minute. Four left to discuss details, questions and next steps. More than enough! Be concise and to the point, and don’t forget to say how you would address the main concerns, to show you can see your proposal through multiple lenses.
Ninja tip: sweet, smart and short. Brevity is a leader’s asset. It shows you can aggregate ideas and present them in an intelligent way, which is exactly what the best leaders do. In doing so, you position yourself as a talent they might want to mentor!
5. Will you own it?
Yes, if you follow these steps, you will get noticed.
Your next step will be to take a deep breath and land your idea in reality. Or to be asked to help directly on a piece of work. Whatever it is, your next real job is to show you can be proactive and own a piece of work.
Don’t forget that senior executives manage by outcomes. Mirror and show how, at your level, you can do the same. Think goals, real deliverables, and how what you deliver is going to impact positively on the company and/or its customers. Be authentic and try to link the details to the big picture. It’s a sign of professional maturity; you will earn credibility and respect.
Connecting with executives or influencers is a matter of preparation and accurate communication. But there’s a thin line between being someone they know, and someone they trust. Your success will depend on your ability to build trust, so make acute communication your priority.
Robust work and a professional attitude are the basics. In order to have the credibility to remain in their inner circle, you’ll need to lead intelligent and responsive conversations. And, in turn, you will become a better leader yourself!
What was your best conversation (at work or in life?) Tell your story in the comments!