I worked with a client recently who frequently presented his ideas enthusiastically and comprehensively to the C-Suite of his corporation. However, they never took his counsel. He began noticing a pattern of being rebuffed and couldn’t figure out why.
We began forensically discovering that every idea he had was his and his alone. He hadn’t gotten input from anyone. One reason was that the executives were spread throughout the world, creating a virtual environment that made it difficult to connect with them. In a sense, he was creating recommendations in a vacuum.
Don’t get sucked into that trap.
Virtual Communication Challenges
The virtual business world that many of us operate in can create communication challenges. But if your job is to make recommendations that impact your company’s leaders, it’s imperative that you bridge the virtual gap and connect with those who can add real-world insight to your ideas. Otherwise, you are providing counsel in a vacuum and, like my client, that counsel is unlikely to have the intended impact you desire.
Connect with Audience Pain Points
With my client, his recommendations didn’t land because he hadn’t surveyed the executives’ needs and pain points. It was far too much “here’s what I think,” versus setting up his ideas with “here’s what I know.” The former is a vacuum-created opinion, which clearly was not what the executives wanted from him. The latter is fact-based and can open discussions on the real-world situations the company is facing. But, as I always tell my client, you have to LISTEN first, recommend second.
So, we began an experiment where he created active connections with each regional leader with whom he was to collaborate. Through this process, he discovered that many of his recommendations were not accretive enough for the strategic plan of each respective country leader. We therefore concluded that he needed to adapt his methodology to include an increased level of listening/probing to realize the strategic plans of his internal clients WELL before he initiated his ideas.
Listen Without Bias
It was important that he abandon any pre-conceived agenda when having these initial discussions. Otherwise, he would be simply trying to pigeon-hole the situation into his pre-made recommendation…another recipe for failure. This “listening without bias” is critical so that you can really hear what the other person is saying and create probing questions that get to deeper issues.
Over time, we changed his behavior which solved two critical needs. First, he stopped the usurping behavior that was diminishing his reputation, and second, he established a side-by side relationship with each country head who began to seek-out his commercial judgment and collaborative approach. Essentially, he broke down the virtual barriers and created real connections. This new collaborative environment has resulted in reciprocal trust. With deeper understanding and knowledge, he now knows he can make a difference because his recommendations are based on reality, not just him making it up and hoping he’s right. Strategy backed by information, intelligence and understanding!