Your objective is to get quality time and an opportunity to drive your business oriented agenda by getting closer to the action from the best angle, via the top dog.
The problem is CEOs have the attention span of a gnat.
Book yourself a power-half-hour each week or fortnight if travelling is an issue, with your CEO. Do what you do best which is prepare, set your own agenda and split the topics into:
- long range strategic items
- medium term project status updates
- short term topics and decisions
- ad hoc issues and challenges to be aware of
All written down in an email and also brought along to the meeting — two copies as you know the CEO won't have printed it off.
Stop after 30 minutes and hold non urgent items over into the next meeting.
Never try and get a hard decision from a cold standing start
Introduce topics and tough decisions over a longer period of time building up to the big decision you are after.
Let the issues and challenges settle like dust or sand in the CEOs head like disturbed seabed.
Shock and awe didn't work for Donald Rumsfeld and it wont work for you. Incrementalism is the real tool of influence.
CEOs may not do as well on detail as you would like but they are expected to hold the entire universe of solutions to problems in their head.
They don't like to be shown up either so solve their problems for them. Inform them, even of a minute failure in a distant office.
You can be guaranteed someone will email someone and it will end up in the CEO's inbox. Prevent embarrassment, and you will have an open direct line. Trust and confidence will build.
Email is a great soft direct marketing and internal collaboration tool, use it to tell your CEO everything without demanding anything back.
Write into the email itself and avoid attaching complicated Word documents with special capacity sucking embedded internal branding. Its all about the content.
Be structured and prepare to push up into the boardroom through reading all about the latest Combined Code for Non Executive Directors.
What's pressurizing the CEO?
Read about how governance and regulation is affecting the business he or she runs, how investors and the behaviour of banks in extending credit (or not) stresses him or her out.
The internet is a great library of information and content. You can be a virtual expert in anything given enough time to study and research.
CEOs need experience, leadership and wise counsel wrapped up in humility. Most people are on broadcast only option.
Be different, listen, observe and try and see what you can offer which others have missed.
Albert Ellis is CEO of recruitment specialist Harvey Nash
Pic: karpidis cc2.0