Studying Executives In Their Native Habitat
Teaching a course in Executive Leadership at Drake this semester has been an interesting change of gears from the leadership class I taught last year. I've served in various executive roles and I've been exposed to the good, bad, and ugly of executives in my employee and consulting careers. Still, to many, the executive is that elusive "man behind the curtain" whom nobody really understands. Is he "great and powerful" or just a "humbug"?
The first guest speaker I brought into class was Sue, an executive assistant with a locally large employer in town. She entertaininly provided my students with many insights about the life and times of an executive's life, but since many of my students are far from being an executive yet, her most valuable advice was how to approach and interact with executives.
In her own words:
This person did not get to where he is by needing you to read him every page of 100 page deck; in fact, do not show up with a 100 page deck! Schedule your meeting for 30-minutes (or as requested by the exec or his assistant); be organized so you can cover the information, answer any questions, note any take aways and leave before your allotted time is spent. Be pleasant and smile-- remember he’s a human being and usually very approachable. Leave the brown nosing at your former employer’s---everyone knows when you’re baffling with bull because you aren’t able to dazzle with brilliance. Also, read the body language; know the clues as when to move on, whether to the next topic or out the door
Sage advice. My dad used to say that the perfect 3-point sermon was to stand up, speak up, and shut up. It looks as though the same principles apply in dealing with executives.