Other than paying them well, what do CEOs want from us? It all comes down to knowing your audience – and with a CEO, that means tying all conversations back to strategy, customers, investors and culture. Here’s a “cheat sheet” from an executive perspective – courtesy of Dan Walter of FutureSense:
Start with something I don’t know and summarize it to a level that allows me to either make a decision or ask critical questions. Have the details at the ready, but don’t insist that I see them.
Give me solutions, not suggestions or problems. If it takes you a few extra days to turn your idea into a working prototype that proves its capabilities, please let me know in advance and we will meet in a few days.
Please know our business and be able to speak to me in terms I use on a regular basis. I don’t want to learn your “language” of HR and compensation. Listen in on investor conference calls and read any memo you can get your hands on. Please learn my language of success.
Don’t make assumptions about our business strategy. We explain it pretty darned well in our Proxy Statement. I secretly wish you had already read and understood our entire 10K and those of our most important peers.
Explain EVERYTHING from the perspective of how it helps our business become more successful. It’s great if something is new, or trendy, or if you want to make employees happier, but all of that is useless if we aren’t growing and winning.
PREPARE. There is a great quote from Woodrow Wilson that reads: “If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week of preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half and hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.” Which did you prepare for?
Please try and tell me everything from my perspective, not yours. I know this can be tough but, trust me, it is probably harder for me to see the world through your eyes (unprepared) than vice versa.
Every CEO really wants each department in their company to be a profit center. How can Compensation, a department that is an open tap of money pouring out the door, be a profit center? Know the business strategy and have a story that explains how the compensation philosophy, structure, pay levels and communication programs will create more value than they cost. Be specific. Use timeframes that make sense. Make sure you have backing evidence or credible opinions from consultants, academic studies or colleagues at similar companies.
If you do your homework, you will be quick on your feet. That, my friends, is perhaps the most important aspect of working with a CEO. Most are in their position because they are bright, fairly impatient and have high expectations of themselves and anyone who wants to be called their business partner. Truly understanding your preferred solution and at least two or three alternatives provides you with the simple and important function of exceeding expectations. Exceed expectations and you will be invited back to the table again and again.
-Liz Dunshee, CompensationStandards.com February 5, 2020
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