Building meaningful and effective relationships with senior executives require that you understand their institutional and personal concerns, and that you are prepared to engage in value creating dialogues regarding the key questions arising from these concerns:
Institutional concerns - and related key questions
Growth: Growth is at the very core of a senior executive’s institutional concerns and the key question most often pondering the minds of senior executives is: ”Where is our future growth going to come from? Acquisitions, partnerships, organic growth....
Leadership: As senior executives are well aware of their dependence on a strong leadership team effort the key question they often ask themselves is: ”Do I have the right leadership team in place to deliver the growth I aspire to and do they collaborate well enough to add value to the organization at large?
Key stakeholders: No success without strong alignment with key stakeholders! Senior executives are very aware of this for which reason the prevailing question is: ”How can I make sure that my board, shareholders, leadership team, organization, customers, suppliers etc. is on board and aligned with the company and growth strategy?”
Profitability & risk: Senior executives are under constant pressure to do more with less while still outperforming the market. The key question in the minds of senior executives in this context often is: ”How can I continuously improve my working capital platform and overall profitability while improving efficiency and minimizing risk?”
Personal concerns - and related key questions
Network: Senior executives have long recognized the importance of a robust network, but they are also very selective and critical when it comes to investing their personal time in establishing such robust network. Thus, the key question they seek an answer to here is: ”Whom within my current network can – without compromising my reputation – help me extend my network further and provide me with valuable contacts?”
Career: Senior executives pay relentless attention to career progression and they will often distill strategic decisions through a career developing and reputation enhancing lens. As a result, the key question often posed by senior executives here is: ”How am I doing in my current role and what is the next smart move for me?”
Compensation: As compensation of senior executives often is directly impacted by performance and stock value, their key question here is: ”How can I build and most effectively achieve KPI's that can add value to my company as well as being conducive to improving my level of compensation?”
Private life: As any other person, senior executives also prioritize their personal life i.e. family, friends and personal interests. Networking with senior executives therefore preconditions understanding and appreciating this aspect of their lives and the key question therefore is: “Who is more likely to understand and relate to my personal world and who can speak with great versatility to my own personal priorities and interests?”
To successfully network with senior executives, you should not answer to all of the earlier mentioned personal and institutional concerns – rather, you should build mastery within a specific area and demonstrate a superior skill in enacting and articulating this skill while continuously broadening your understanding of your client’s world from micro to macro level – and from personal, company and industry level to more general business environment levels.
Senior executives are drawn to people who are well-connected leaders within their own field i.e. thought leaders and people who can add insightful perspectives and solutions to their current and anticipated concerns while putting these into a broader context.
And remember, in order to remain interesting to senior executives, you have to find a way to be interesting yourself…