It isn’t difficult to stray from the rules that govern the generally accepted behaviors in a business setting, especially when you are surrounded by people who share similar motivations, interests, and professional experiences. It is important, however, to be aware of the potential of these moments, and adhere to the edicts that will ensure your professionalism (and the opinions of those that matter) remains at its highest possible level.
With executive interactions, it's critical you are very intentional about what you are doing and what you are saying. Not being aware in these moments can be the difference in whether you get the job, or the promotion. If you are in sales it’s an essential skill to be successful. Ultimately, it’s required to get the respect you deserve.
It's vital to be aware of how your words and actions impact judgement from not just executives, but from your peers and your boss. They are always assessing your decision making ability, awareness, and reaction in high pressure situations, as typically this behavior mirrors how you also interact with your customers and employees.
#1. End of Story First
Get to the point. Executives are short on time, and long on experience. When you do meet with them they want to hear the end of the story first (at least I do!). My advice here is to skip the preamble and the warm up story, though we understand that you will need to provide context. Allow your manager to dictate or ask where they want additional context.
#2. Avoid Talking Only About Yourself or Talking Too Much
This is especially important in a meeting with potential clients. The reason for the meeting should occupy the space in the forefront of your mind, both before, and during, the meeting. Without the client or potential client, there would be no reason to gather, so make sure that the focus remains on the business at hand. If you tend to begin side conversations that are irrelevant, make it a point to refocus your conversation on the topic at hand. This is simply done by listening to what everyone else in the room is discussing.
If you’re guilty of over-sharing from time to time, it might simply mean that you’re too comfortable with the people in the room. There’s clearly nothing wrong with that, but just make a mental note that there’s a time and place for everything. Small talk before the meeting is absolutely fine, but when it’s game time, switch those gears to business mode.
#3. Save the Inappropriate Stories for Never
Remember that someone is ALWAYS listening. If you have a tall tale to tell about weekend shenanigans, you should keep that in your proverbial pocket for after meeting/after work. Don’t be tempted to finish the story when the client or potential client arrives, even if they are all the way across the room. Powerful ears make for powerful impacts, depending what words fall on them. Make sure that what comes out of your mouth is fit for the boardroom, rather than what’s best said behind closed (personal and private) doors.
#4. Just the Facts
While it is important to personalize your approach with an opening and relevant story or connection (we teach this limbic techniques in our workshops which can and should also be used in meetings!), it is not advisable that you make your sales pitch or presentation using stories as your only means of support. Anecdotes are unreliable, in that, although they may seem true, they may not be. Your managers want data and hard facts, and it is your job to give them those things. Switch to a more scientific approach, showing up with legitimate data to support what you’re offering, rather than information that MIGHT be true. It's frustrating and it also makes you seem like you aren't prepared, organized, and that you don't value everyones time. Also offer some suggestions, bring some value to the table, versus always relying on executives for suggestions.
#5. Stop and Think Before Responding
When you are a part of a team, it’s imperative that you act as a responsible team member. To that end, as others are speaking and offering ideas, make sure to pause and really listen to what is being said before you respond. Every idea offers opportunities for great ideas. When you do interject with ideas, think about what time these suggestions are helpful and if they are in alignment with how your organization want to solve problems.
If you follow these four guidelines, you’re sure to host or participate in a meeting that is successful for all involved. Colleagues, managers, and clients will appreciate the time, thought, and respect that are shown by those that adhere to meeting mindfulness.