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Learning to Speak “Executive”

“Stop!”


And I did.


Prior to hearing that shocking word, I was starting down a carefully crafted path of premise, premise, premise… on my way to a logical conclusion. The conclusion would then logically lead to the recommendation I was asked to provide by the CIO of a giant telecommunications company. (That CIO later became a mentor even after the company was acquired by an even bigger giant).


“Just tell me your recommendation,” Joe said with a smile.


He could tell I was somewhat crestfallen. I was only on slide one of a deck that took hours of brain sweat to prepare. He could sense my discomfort.


“Look, Sean. I trust you and I want to hear your recommendation. If I need to hear how you got there, I’ll ask questions. But I might just agree and then we can move on to other things.”

I jumped to the last slide. And no, the last slide didn’t have, “QUESTIONS?” as it did in previous presentations (another thing I was asked to stop). I had learned that ending on a Call to Action was much better.


Over the years, I’ve worked with a LOT of leaders but few more clear about their personal communication needs than Joe. As I’ve often heard the frustrations that many people have with being cut off by executives, I’ve learned that it’s a good idea to learn how to speak the language of executives: clear recommendations with strong evidence for that recommendation when that leader needs it.


It took me a long time to get where Joe was coming from and what he was encouraging me to do. I was used to argument as sport: Run, jump, tumble, flip and stick the landing. He told me to just get to the landing.


I’m grateful for that lesson. It’s not appropriate in all situations with all leaders. But it’s now a well-honed option that I would have never even considered in the past. And he got the point across by making the recommendation without a lot of gymnastics to get there.

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