First Impressions Count - How to Get Your CEO On-side
Often, time with the C-suite, especially your CEO, is short in supply, and high in intensity.
Whether you are experienced in presenting and or influencing, the pressure to make a good impression is on. But not only this, you need to secure what you need to help you achieve your goals. Beyond making a good impression, you may need to have some challenging conversations in order to secure approval, funding or internal support for key changes or initiatives you are attempting to lead.
Here are some tips on how to make the best first impression and get your CEO on-side.
Solve a problem, don’t present a problem
An obvious, but sometimes overlooked mistake. Don’t go to your CEO with a list of issues. Equally, as Sabina Nawaz points out in HBR article, ‘How to blow a presentation to the C-suite’, don’t go with just a list of ideas either. CEOs want to know what the solution is, but they also want to understand the issue as well. They’re unlikely to ‘buy in’ to anything unless they think it is a priority for the business. Therefore, you need to create a call to action. Scope out the issue, to provide context and urgency, before presenting your solution.
Keep it short and sweet, and fact based
An add on to the above. Your CEO may appreciate context, but they won’t appreciate information overload. When discussing an idea or problem, keep it high level. Don’t provide unnecessary detail and ensure you talk in terms of evidence points, not gut feel. Back up any hypotheses with some degree of research, even if that is qualitative, rather than quantitative. If you struggle in these types of situations, or have a tendency to go off topic, spend some time, in advance, writing out what you want to say in key bullet points.
Manage their risk
Make sure you understand the impacts of what you are suggesting. Do a full analysis and risk assessment of any changes you are proposing and seek consultation from peers to ensure you are seeing the full picture. There may still be some unresolved issues, that you need more senior-level counsel on. Once contextualised with the above, this is your forum. This is where you need your CEO’s input in discussing the issues you really need support on.
Listen, very carefully, to their input
You may get agreement, but make sure you listen to the caveats or instructions along the way. There will be actions to deliver, or points to consider – and your CEO is unlikely to tell you twice, unlike a line manager. Being aware of the most micro of clarifications or suggested changes in strategy is key to ensuring you not only get your CEO on board but keep them there.
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