Communicating openly and effectively with senior leaders is one of your most important tasks as a professional communicator. The success of your company and brand depends on senior management's decision making, and it's your job to inform senior leaders about what's really going on.
At PR News' Leadership Strategies for Communicators workshop in New York, Anthony Surratt, group vice president, corporate communications at Time Warner Cable shared 10 rules to live by when communicating with senior leadership.
- Listen and adapt. The best communicators know how to read their environments well and how to adapt. They can change their messaging on a dime, when necessary.
- Communicate with clarity. Search for clarity. Find the concise, clear message and use it.
- Understand your boss’ style. Become a student of human behavior. How do your senior leaders react to stress? Figure out how you can adapt your interactions by asking your senior managers what works for them.
- It’s not about you. Your job is to serve your senior managers and make them look good. Take your personal opinions and circumstances out of the conversation. You’re working for the good of your brand/company in the form of your senior leaders.
- Be calm and keep you emotions in check. The more calm and rational you seem, the better off you’ll be. Be firm, accommodating and effective.
- Be the first to deliver bad news. When a problem arises, get to senior leaders first with information and a recommended solution. Don’t let them hear about bad news from social media.
- Set the ground rules for making decisions. Identify the decisions you can make on your own vs. what you need to consult your boss on. Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries. The more you take on and deliver on, the more comfortable bosses will be with trusting you.
- Observe and learn. Everyone has skills that can be modeled. Learn from how others on your team deal with senior management, and apply those lessons to your style. Occasionally, learn what not to do.
- Know when (and how) to say “no.” Find out how your boss prefers to be disagreed with. To help your senior leaders move forward, you’ve got to know how to push back.
- Understand the big picture. Your boss has to. Everyone has someone to answer to. Anticipate objections and show that you understand the other issues at play.
Follow Brian Greene on Twitter: @bw_greene
Follow Time Warner Cable on Twitter: @TWC