1. Understand how they work.Some people are purely result-oriented and not very concerned about how you get the work done. While there are others, who prefer a particular process/system be followed to achieve the results. The sooner you understand into which category the person you are working with falls in, the better you would be able to understand what their expectations are from your work.
2. Speak their language.While it obviously makes things easier if you both speak the same language (in the literal sense), the language I intend here is different. Understand what terminologies/ideologies the person is more receptive to. While some prefer to speak business only in terms of numbers, some would prefer looking only at the bigger picture irrespective of what happens in the intricacies. Some others might just look at the qualitative impact of the work being done and yet another bunch might only be happy with cutting the costs down. Understand which language they speak and what they want to hear. And then just present your stuff in that language.
3. Get to the point. Quick.While this works in every aspect of your personal and professional life, it holds all the more leverage when it comes to communicating with senior management. Do not keep rambling and explaining about the its and bits of your work. Get to the point, in their language. The sooner you reach there, the more time you have to hear back from them and understand better about what their expectations are.
4. Ask questions.One thing I have learnt from my not-so-short experience is that every single person loves to give advice and help with answers. And the higher-ups are no different. Once you have a knack of what their language is and how they think in terms of their work, asking intelligent questions always puts you on their radar as someone who’s making good use of that wobbly ball of flesh sitting on your shoulders. The more you interact with them, the more you learn. And obviously the best way to get more answers is to ask more questions. But just a word of caution: do not ask questions just for the sake of asking them; and do not ask too many questions in one go, even if they are superbly intelligent. It’s all in the balance. And once you know where the balance is, you have understood it all.
5. Evaluate their weaknesses. And fill that gap.No matter how senior up an employee, there will always be an area of weakness for them. An area, they themselves know that they would need advice/suggestions on. While some people might whole-heartedly speak about their ‘work-weaknesses’, most of them will not. If you can critically identify the area/s your supervisor/senior manager is seeking help on, without them being vocal about it, and support them in that, it would genuinely lead to a very healthy and flourishing work relationship. But make sure you never take it as a chance to boast/show-off on something you can do that they cannot. Rather, see it as one team member helping out the other. In every team, you do need the sniper, as you do the demolitions expert.
I hope this list does give you a starting point at least on how to communicate better with senior management in your organization. If you have any further points, please feel free to share.
Cover Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash