Improving Communication with the C-Suite

Communication with the C-Suite can be intimidating due to the C-Suite’s professional level, accomplishments and reputation.  It can also be difficult to simply find the time to communicate with them, given that their schedules are jam-packed and rarely consistent.  It’s important to find effective ways to communicate items to the C-Suite in a clear, concise manner.

Andy Warhol and Tennesee Williams By James Kavallines, New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Andy Warhol and Tennesee Williams By James Kavallines, New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Recap.

Each time you start a new conversation with a member of the C-Suite team, review any closed action items from your last meeting; it’s best to begin the conversation with the pieces that are already complete.  Although you may think the purpose of the meeting is to go over what needs to be done next, it’s important to also acknowledge what’s already been completed, both for your benefit and theirs; your bosses want to know that they can rely on you to get something done, so tell them you have!  

Open items.

Next, update them on currently open or incomplete action items, starting with the open items that need their attention in order to drive the process forward.  Be sure you have these items on hand, be it a contract, a check, or a draft.  Now that your boss is in front of you, you are more likely to get a quick response, sign off, or answers to any outstanding questions you may have.  This is the time to execute on these tasks, so come prepared!

Update.

Any open items the C-Suite member needs to be aware of but don’t directly involve him/her should be saved for the end of the meeting.  As you already know, the C-Suite’s schedule can change at any moment for any reason.  There are constantly fires to be put out.  If your meeting ends abruptly, you’ve at least taken care of the actionable items that need their attention.  Remember, it’s all about progress.

Repeat.

Write down minutes from your mini meeting, including a short recap of your recap, the actions taken by the executive to either continue the process of a task toward completion, or to fully complete the task, and any remaining open items on your list, including who has that responsibility.  Distribute the open action items to the appropriate parties: the executive/executives involved, their administrators, and anyone else listed to take a next step to complete it, while remaining cautious and aware of confidential or sensitive material.  This facilitates communication not only with the C-Suite, but also lets their administrators and other members of your team know what has/has not been done and what needs to be done next.

Remain alert.

It is vital for administrators to remain three steps ahead of everyone else, and anticipate obstacles before they arise.  Be mindful of any vacation time scheduled for individuals on your open action item list.  You cannot let them go to Bora Bora before you get what you need from them.  In the colder months when the flu inevitably runs rampant in the office, take note of who calls in sick—and distribute hand sanitizer!  Take note of meetings or events happening in and around the office so you can better assess individual availability.

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