Magazine article Business Credit

Getting Heard: Communicating Well with Senior-Level Managers Means Thinking like Management

Magazine article Business Credit

Getting Heard: Communicating Well with Senior-Level Managers Means Thinking like Management

Article excerpt

Sharing information is a key way to interact with senior management--whether you have good or not so good news to convey. Knowing what to say whether it's at a scheduled or impromptu meeting is an important part of that process.

When the credit department is part of the senior management team, the process is easier, said D'Ann Johnson, CCE, credit manager at Roofers Supply in Salt Lake City, who previously held a job that wasn't. "I've seen it from both sides," Johnson explained. Being a part of the team provides more and better opportunities for communicating and understanding between parties, she added. "It's instantaneous, and you have the ability to have conversations in a group. Otherwise, you have to try and catch everyone individually and try to repeat your message exactly the same." Not every credit professional has that kind of access, however.

"Talking to 'members of the C-suite' and senior managers can be stressful, but it can be the difference between a successful career and a going-nowhere job," according to an Arlington, VA-based training firm, TwentyEighty Strategy Execution (formerly ESI International). "Making the most of these conversations takes preparation and specialized knowledge to communicate clearly, concisely, directly and, most important, persuasively with the decision makers who can green light your ideas."

Finding Time to Get Heard

Know when and where to deliver your message. The finance department--of which Credit Manager Kevin Stinner, CCE, CCRA, is a part--began holding quarterly town-hall-type meetings, which provide opportunities to interact with senior departmental staff via teleconference, about a year ago. The sessions start with recognition of employee milestones such as work anniversaries. Each area within the department shares information about what it does for the company. "You get an idea of what is going on and what's new," said Stinner, who works for Crop Production Services, Inc. "It's nice to have that interaction."

If you don't have regularly scheduled meetings, it can take some effort to find a way to get your message heard. It's important to be able to think on your feet. Impromptu communication takes preparation, however. "It may sound a bit like an oxymoron, but employees should prepare for a chance meeting with an executive," the training firm said. "Executives and senior managers are quite used to challenging the people around them and if you are not prepared, an impromptu hallway conversation could do more harm than good." Don't assume impromptu conversations are casual, the firm points out. Wherever business is the topic of conversation, it's a serious discussion, whether it appears to be or not.

Carefully consider the topic you want "to address and provide solid solutions to issues executives may not even be aware of," it added. "It will help showcase your knowledge and your aptitude as a problem solver.... Develop various situation-appropriate messages in advance. The company picnic may not be the place to discuss specifics of a product line you would like to develop, but could be an opportunity to introduce your concept at a high level. Be prepared with details, however; asking next level questions is instinctive for many executives."

Impromptu conversations are how a lot of people interact with senior executives, said Mark Bashrum, senior vice president of marketing with Richardson, an Austin-based training organization. "The main thing is for people to prepare for it. You don't want to come across as trite or uninformed," he cautioned.

Communicate proactively. It can help keep you "from feeling like you're being called to the vice principal's office," Johnson said. It helps quiet the voice in your head that says, "You don't want to go into her office because that means you're in trouble," she noted.

If there is a problem, go to them before they come to you, said Hal Schaeffer, Jr. …

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