How To Impress An Executive

How To Impress An Executive

He was sitting in for his boss at the executive’s staff meeting. He followed her leadership blog so he had a sense of what’s in her head.

She had just written about how to make the most of a temporary seat at the table. He followed her formula. Good start.

There was one vital topic her team was debating. The issue was complex, so they decided to do some more work and revisit the following week. He listened intently, but didn’t say much. 

On Sunday he emailed her (and the team) a carefully thought-out proposal, neatly articulated in Powerpoint. Strategic, subtle, ambitious.

She arranged for follow-up call to discuss further. Another seat at the table. Before the meeting he stakeholdered the model with her right hand expert whom she had invited to the meeting as well.

This guy was impressed and validated his strategy and thinking. Her right hand then invited him to partner on all future meetings on the topic. Yup, more seats at more tables. She asked questions about the model, but also about him.

Executive: What other aspects of the business are you most interested in learning (this was substantially outside of his normal responsibilities).

Impressive Guy: “All. I want to learn as much as I can.” And then some examples along with how his experience would add value in those arenas (think elevator speech in action).

Executive:  Hmm…the next step would be negotiations with a lot of key players. How do you do when you buy a car.

Impressive Guy: Actually, I do quite well. You see, I owned my own business before I came to this corporation. I had to negotiate contracts and other tough situations all the time confidence, well timed.

I’m impressed. I asked for permission to share his story which has only just begun.

What impresses you as a leader?
Filed Under:   Career & Learning, Communication
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.

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What People Are Saying

Steve Borek   |   09 September 2013   |   Reply

What impresses me as a leader are people who have the courage to say what everyone else is thinking.

letsgrowleaders   |   09 September 2013   |   Reply

Steve, Me too…bonus points for doing it an a way others can hear it.

Dave Bratcher   |   09 September 2013   |   Reply

I’ve always believed attitude trumps aptitude. This is magnified if a leader is willing to admit they don’t know everything. Your “impressive guy” is a great example of what we can become when we are teachable and willing to admit we need to learn more. Everyone wants the “impressive guy” on their team, so good luck in developing him past yourself (if this was a personal story). Awesome way to start a Monday!

letsgrowleaders   |   09 September 2013   |   Reply

Dave, attitude is everything. Yup, this guy’s got runway.

Matt McWilliams   |   09 September 2013   |   Reply

Thoughtful questions.

Silence when it’s appropriate. Some people talk too much (hand raised)

Willingness to speak up to get a meeting back on track.

Challenging me.

letsgrowleaders   |   09 September 2013   |   Reply

Matt, great adds! Silence when appropriate is so important.

David Tumbarello   |   09 September 2013   |   Reply

Questions I may ask in my head: “Will you develop others?” “What are your motives?” “Will you know the difference between attending and leading?” and a selfish consideration: “Make sure you are not wasting my time.”

I am not at “The Table,” but I can visualize your new leader and the established order. The Table is about grooming others to take our place. There is no magic formula, but when you feel the right fit, it is your gift to the new leader and to yourself to yourself to go for it.

letsgrowleaders   |   09 September 2013   |   Reply

David, you raise such great ones here… my favorite, “make sure you’re not wasting my time” A seat at the table has to be handled wtih care.. and execs can be impatient. Hitting the sweet spot of be brief and be gone is an important characterstic to be being invited back.

David Tumbarello   |   09 September 2013   |   Reply

Apologies for the typo!

Alli Polin   |   09 September 2013   |   Reply

Love this story, Karin! What impresses me as a leader? I can remember a valued team member that I knew I could rely on to flesh out and get done our most complex tasks. What stood out about her is that she would often come back to me and say “Alli, I did what you asked and here it is. I also saw an opportunity and ran some more analysis. Here’s what I found and here’s what I think we should do…” She saw something that made her curious, took the initiative and had an opinion.

letsgrowleaders   |   09 September 2013   |   Reply

Alli, Thanks so much. Oh curious, with initiative. Always impressive.

Greg   |   09 September 2013   |   Reply

I take notice when someone can bring something to that table that is unique and adds value. That impresses me because it indicates they are thinking on their own and have the confidence to actually deliver on what they are thinking. Coach-ability and the deep desire to learn are also key attributes that I look for. Lastly, is the desire to have a seat at the table the result of pure ambition or rather, the passion to deliver value to the team? I make sure to look for this.

letsgrowleaders   |   09 September 2013   |   Reply

Greg, So many great points! I love your additions of considering why…

Ali Anani (@alianani15)   |   09 September 2013   |   Reply

Great post, Karin. Today I finished writing a presentation on how the most prominent criteria a person makes his/her decision to buy a car actually reflects a lots about his personality profile. I do not see this post much different.
I wish an employee to get delighted when fails to stand up and “steer up”, regardless of the awkward driving conditions of the business.
Well, time to apply the brake

Ali Anani (@alianani15)   |   09 September 2013   |   Reply
letsgrowleaders   |   09 September 2013   |   Reply

Ali, FANTASTIC! Thanks as always for sharing and expanding the conversation in important ways.

Marko V.   |   09 September 2013   |   Reply

It’s hard to find ambitious, hard-working, motivated people. Sometimes, it takes just ONE person to make a (positive) difference in an organization. Similarly, it only takes one bad person to destroy everything you’ve built.

I’m glad when someone finds the right one.

letsgrowleaders   |   09 September 2013   |   Reply

Marko. Me too.

LaRae Quy   |   09 September 2013   |   Reply

Great discussion thread here, and thanks for providing such an inviting atmosphere for folks to share. I am impressed by humble intelligence…people who are bright, innovative, and inquisitive but offer their wisdom with a good dose of humility and not hubris. Enough already, of those who spout their accomplishments and spend all their time trying to impress…

letsgrowleaders   |   10 September 2013   |   Reply

LaRae, Thanks so much. I too am a big fan of humble intelligence.