Executive Exposure is Great, Here’s How to Do It Well
You want to give your team executive exposure but, if you’re like me, you’ve learned the hard way that it can backfire. After all, not all executive exposure is good exposure. It can be tempting to hold back visibility in an effort to protect, you or your team.
- “She’s a little rough around the edges. She’s not ready for that kind of exposure.”
- “Not all exposure is good exposure. What if he says something stupid?”
- “If I bring my SME along to the meeting, my boss will think I don’t know what I’m doing.”
These are just a few of the reasons managers give for keeping their employees in the background doing the heavy lifting, while they present the results, and negotiate the political landscape. Sure, it’s more efficient to have the workers doing the work while the managers explain it, but you might be missing vital opportunities for development, recognition, and growth.
6 Reasons to Give Your Team Better Executive Exposure
1. The Spotlight Will Show Up When You Least Expect It
Perhaps the most pragmatic reason to get your team comfortable speaking at the next level is that someday, you won’t be around and they’ll need to. Some executive will start asking questions as they poke about, and if your employee’s not prepared, he’ll likely stick his foot in his mouth.
2. It’s the Best Way to Understand the Bigger Picture
No matter how many times you explain “why” you are asking your team to do something, somehow when your boss says it, the lightbulbs go off. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard my direct reports say, “You know I said that exact thing, but when you said it, they listened.” Sure it’s frustrating. But the point isn’t who gets credit for getting through—the point is getting through.
3. They’ll Learn By Watching You
Bringing your employees along gives them a great chance to watch you in a more senior environment. They’ll learn more from watching than anything you could tell them.
4. They’ll Learn By Watching Your Boss
I’ll never forget the first time I walked onto the C-level floor. The atmosphere was completely different than the scurry below—a calm intensity was standard protocol. Not easy to explain. The only way I learned to swim in those waters was to watch the bigger fish.
5. The Preparation Is Great Development
The conversation you have while preparing for, and debriefing, the session is full of opportunities for growth and connection.
One of our favorite ways to help teach critical thinking AND give leaders better executive exposure is our “fishbowl” team innovation programs (think shark tank, only much friendlier).
Managers collaborate using our Courageous Cultures tools as they work on ideas and to real business challenges. Then, they prepare a pitch to a senior leader “shark” who listens to the ideas and provides additional information as needed.
6. It Takes Time to Build a Brand
Don’t wait until Jane is perfectly ready to be promoted until you start talking up her accomplishments and skills. A slow and steady trickle of positive exposure will lay a strong foundation when it’s time to throw her hat in the ring.
It’s natural to want to protect your team until they are completely ready for higher-level exposure. Don’t throw them into the spotlight under-prepared, but regular exposure to higher-level people and strategy will go a long way in accelerating their development.