HR Tips: 5 Tips for Communicating with the C-Suite
HR professionals act as middle managers at times, who have to handle communications from top to bottom. Unlike the lower levels (who listen) and the upper levels (who direct) the ones in the middle have to maintain a balance between all sides. It becomes even more difficult when they have to communicate with the most upper level, also known as, the C-Suite.
Going into one of those fancy offices at the top of building with a C-Somebody can be very stressful. You may need to inform them about a new opportunity or an issue. Maybe you just need some questions answered. Whichever may be the case, you wouldn’t want to goof up with a miscommunicated message that sounds nothing like what you meant to say.
Here are some tips on how you can effectively communicate your message with the C-Suites -- despite the jittery legs and sweaty palms.
- Choose the Right Medium: For something that is not urgent, you might just want to send an email. However, the subject matter shouldn’t be something that he’d prefer speaking to you about in person. Keep in mind that the C suites have tons of other emails to check, and yours shouldn’t just get lost within the big lot. So, speak to your boss personally if the matter is a highly important one or one that needs immediate attention.
- Be Concise and Direct: If you are sending an email, make sure the subject line states the issue. The email should be short and concise. No C-suite member wants to spend too much time reading a lengthy email. Also, include bullets points where appropriate. Wait for a reply before you start a conversation. In person, same rules apply. Be direct and concise with you message. Try to get to the point as soon as possible, in the case of a bad news message.
- Point out how it affects the business: Letting them know how the issue affects the business is the key to making your point sound valid and one of significant value. When highlighting an issue, talk about what would be lost (i.e. reputation, profits, etc). If the result will be a positive one, talk about increased benefits to the business such as efficiency, revenues, and customer retention.
- Get to know him: Get to know your C-member before you go in. Ask others who have interacted with your boss about how he or she tends to respond and what influences him or her. Another way is to notice the way he or she talks and responds after you do. Does he or she like to be concise and to the point? Or does he or she prefer going into the details of everything? Does he or she prefer the friendly tone or a more serious one?
- Don’t get personal: Avoid giving personal comments that sound more like “opinions” rather than “facts”. Even if it’s just a prediction, use as much insider information as you can to base it on. If you don’t get the response you are looking for, don’t let your emotions go all wild on him. Executives often come across very intimidating, but that doesn’t mean they don’t pay attention to what others (even on lower levels) have to say.
Asking questions is also another way to be on the safe side when speaking to your C-level executive. Ask questions such as, “How can we achieve..?”, “I wanted to know if I can fulfill the objective with…?”
Most upper level executive speak the language of “goals and objectives”. Keep this in mind before you step into the office. A message that is oriented around company’s goals, long –term success, and business metrics is the best way to translate your message into one that is well-received by the C-Suite Executives.
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