Leaders Not Listening? Use Your Head if You Want to Be Heard

I often hear business people say they’re having a hard time getting a “seat at the table.” Or they’re concerned that the leadership team isn’t “getting” their ideas or acknowledging the improvements they’ve made.

This struggle to prove the business value of what we’re doing is often rooted in a tendency to speak from our own thinking preferences rather than adjusting for the needs and expectations of senior business leaders.

And when it comes to how senior leaders think, some clear patterns have emerged. Our data has consistently shown that most C-level leaders have natural preferences that span the four quadrants of the Whole Brain® Model. That means if you want to build your credibility and get your ideas heard, you need to cover all the thinking bases:

  1. Make sure you have the facts that support your argument, idea or position. They expect data to back it up, and they’ll want to know things like, What are the technical aspects? Have we done the research? How do these numbers compare to our previous benchmarks?
  2. Do your homework and anticipate those little details that senior leaders always seem to bring up. What about timing? Is there a plan? A process? They’ll want to know they can count on you, and that you’ve thought through potential risks.
  3. Take steps to build rapport and show them what you stand for—even if that’s not something you feel naturally comfortable doing. They want to understand where you’re coming from and feel they can trust you.
  4. Don’t lose sight of the big picture. Context is critical for satisfying their strategic mindset. They’ll want to know: What does this mean for the long term? How does it fit into the overall strategy?

Leaders are looking at all of these areas, so they’re expecting you to have done this thinking work before you come to them. During the process, you might even find that you’re not quite ready to make the pitch — that waiting until you have more facts or a better strategic fit, for example, will make for a better case.

It takes a little advance preparation, but if you spend that time on the front end, you’ll have a better chance of making an impression and getting the response you’re looking for in the long run.

Watch this brief video to learn more about C-level thinking.

ThinkAbout Communicating

The four-color, four-quadrant graphic, HBDI® and Whole Brain® are trademarks of Herrmann Global, LLC.

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