How to Communicate with Executives

If you are in a position to communicate with executives, it is important to learn the rules for delivering information to a top-level leader.

First, understand what an executive is, as it will help you understand how to communicate information to him or her. An executive is a decision-making top-level leader.  As such, the executive decides the course of action for the group, initiates the actions and inspires everyone else to carry out the plan. In order to make the correct decisions, the executive has to absorb and understand a massive amount of information without getting bogged down in too much detail. An executive relies on direct reports to feed him the information critical to his decision making process.

The key to communicating with executives is to understand that they don’t want too much detail. They can’t handle it. They call it “getting into the weeds.” Excessive details clog the thinking of the executive’s mind who needs to hear only the bottom line after you have sifted through all the details.

Realize the importance of your role as the one who feeds critical information to the executive. Your value is first your ability to distill the details down to a simple understandable bottom line, and secondly to communicate it to the executive so he or she can make the decisions to steer the organization successfully.

When reporting directly to an executive, if you try to explain the process of your thinking or understanding you may frustrate the executive to the point that he or she will replace you as fast as possible. If you want to be of service to and gain the trust of your executive, the following simple rules for communicating important messages may be helpful.

  1. Thoroughly sort through and digest the details of the information to be delivered.
  2. Decide what the bottom line is that will help your executive make the best decision.
  3. Be completely honest about your findings. Don’t make it better or worse than the truth.
  4. Start your message with an overarching statement of the bottom line.
  5. Share three important points that back up your key message.
  6. Prepare backup details in case they are needed.
  7. Close your message with an offer for further details if he or she wants them.

Direct reports often make two mistakes. The first mistake is thinking the exec wants to know everything they know. Executives don’t! They need a clear and uncluttered mind so they can make decisions. Do yourself and your senior leader a favor and keep your message simple but true.

The second mistake is to make the exec wait for your conclusions. Executives don’t like suspense. Put the bottom line first in your opening statement. That allows the executive to relax and process your backup material.

The rules for communicating with executives create the simplest kind of message. If you have moved into a position where you now report to an executive and you would like help in learning to deliver valuable messages, please reach out to me by phone or email. Find my contact information at my website