Speaking up reveals your leadership. Getting executives to pay attention and listen is pivotal to reaching your goals. However, most aspiring leaders and experts are cut short right after they start to speak. And this is a major obstacle to their leadership.
C-Level clients tell me: “My colleagues cut me short within the first minute of my speech. I never get to the point where I can deliver my messages. The conversation goes out of control and they tell me what to do instead of me showing them where we should go from my perspective.”
This typically happens when you open your presentation with the ‘context’. This often triggers executives to take back control of the conversation. Why?
Executives expect you to start where they are. At the very beginning of your interaction, their questions usually are: What part of our mission or work area are we going to discuss? What are we trying to achieve there? What contribution are you going to request from me in this conversation? How do you lead the conversation today?
Executives expect you to drive their listening: they need to listen with a problem or question in mind. When you open on the ‘context’, you do the opposite. You start to map distant lands from high up but they don’t even know what to look at.
Leaders need to restrict and choose the amount of information they are exposed to so that they keep their directions clear and process relevant signals. Feeding them with figures and news without a goal or a lens is what they don’t want. Defining relevance first is what drives their attention.
Why do you open with the ‘context’?
If your point requires first to anchor executives into broader data points like general economics so that they have a sense of the scale of your performance figures, you are right to delay your point and show a larger view before hand. But you must first give them a good reason to bear with you while you first move to a distant or tangent area instead of making your point immediately.
Leadership is rooted in your capacity to unzoom and drive attention to the broader picture. Unzooming means that your work is still central and visible in the picture. In high intensity conversations, don’t take the risk of asking your executives to ‘wait’ until they discover the relevance of your speaking.
How do you open your conversations with executives? When recording your presentation dry-run, how much speech time do you burn before you set clear expectations or make a point? How much time do they have to wait before they hear anything that really moves the conversation and the business forward?