Ep #87: How to Turn Your ‘Meh’ Leadership Conversations Into Golden Nuggets of Wisdom
When you’re meeting with a member of the leadership team, are they impressed with what you have to say, or are they just hearing: ‘blah, blah, blah, blah’?
I’ve seen this happen to so many corporate women leaders I’ve worked with.
I can hear the ‘blah, blah, blah…’
They can hear the ‘blah, blah, blah…’
…but the problem is, they don’t know what to actually do about it.
So as a result, they play small.
They don’t speak up around the boardroom table.
They don’t schedule one-on-one meetings with the leadership team.
And they inevitably get (and stay) stuck in their careers.
The reality is, having engaging conversations with the leadership team is one of the fastest ways to build trust that you are ready to lead at the senior executive level.
In this episode of Maximize Your Career with Stacy Mayer, I’ll show you how to transform those ‘meh’ conversations into golden nuggets of wisdom so you can start having effective, influential conversations at your organization today.
If you listen to this episode and think to yourself “I want to think and act like a senior executive now”, then my 6-week group coaching program is just the thing for you. I designed Executive Ahead of Time to help corporate leaders like YOU access the skills, confidence, and unparalleled support you’ll need to reach a higher level executive position. Learn more at www.ExecutiveAheadOfTime.com.
What You'll Learn:
- The conversations senior executive leaders actually care about
- Why it’s so easy to get stuck having 'blah, blah, blah’ conversations at work
- Real-life examples of how my clients created their golden nuggets of leadership wisdom
- Practical strategies for having executive-level conversations with the leadership team
- The biggest mistakes corporate leaders make when talking to senior executive leaders (and what to do instead)
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
Hello, everyone, welcome to another episode of Maximize Your Career. I'm your host, Stacy Mayer, and super excited, as always, to be here with you again this week. So, I got one of the best text messages I could ever receive. As a coach that helps corporate women get promoted into senior executive leadership positions. I received a text this past Friday that says, 'I got promoted to director!' So, I just want to celebrate that before I get into today's episode. I received this text on Friday from Sarah - and you're going to remember Sarah - if you go back to episode number 43 where I interviewed her and three other corporate leaders who are taking their career to that next level. Go back and listen to that episode after this so you can hear part of Sarah's journey.
We have been working together for almost a year and a half now. She's one of my advanced students and she is just absolutely killing it. And over the past six months, she has essentially been operating at a director level, or even above a director level, for a while now. In terms of her attitude - the conversations that she's being pulled into, the changes that she's making, the team that she's building - in all of those areas, she's essentially operating at a director level. And as you've probably experienced in your own career, sometimes it takes a little while for the company to catch up with you in terms of title and compensation. And so, it wasn't necessarily something that we were, quote unquote, worried about her being promoted.
Her boss had promised her that it was in the works - that it was happening. We knew that this was true. It wasn't just a false promise. And also, it was represented in the fact that she was being pulled into these meetings. She was enjoying her job more. She really loved the work that she was doing. But I always encourage my clients to continue asking, to continue making sure that they're setting themselves up; that it is happening in motion.
But really, for the most part, it wasn't a matter of if she would be promoted. It was just a matter of when. So, we didn't really know when I was going to get this text message from her -if it was going to be now or if it was going to be a couple months from now. But we knew it was going to happen.
And so, I am just so absolutely thrilled for her. Here's the best part, when you are doing the job ahead of time, when you are becoming that executive ahead of time and you are really operating at the next level of leadership, you're basically setting yourself up for your next 'next' promotion. So, because this promotion is basically inevitable, then it's like, okay, what's next? What do I need to start doing to operate at that senior director level? What is actually in front of me and how can I continue to hone my craft to continue operating at this higher level and to really make that bigger impact that she wants to be making at her organization.
So, congratulations Sarah - I'm super-duper excited for you. Go back and listen to her journey from episode number 43. It's absolutely fantastic to hear everything that she has worked on over the years and really just huge congratulations to her and her organization. I love it - I love that kind of text in the morning. Oh, my goodness.
So, today's episode is actually inspired from one of my recent Promotion Accelerator calls, which is my advance group training program. It's a six-month training program for my clients who have really done the work of executive ahead of time. And now they're ready to accelerate their growth into those higher levels of leadership and really start just allowing that confidence to infiltrate themselves. So that they just truly are the executive as opposed to becoming the executive. They are the executive. They're embodying that - just like Sarah did. And so, my Promotion Accelerator students are always challenging themselves and really putting this work into action.
And our conversation a couple of weeks ago was really funny because I was talking to one of my students who was going to have a skip level conversation with an executive leader in a couple of weeks from now. And she was kind of working through this 15-minute ally meeting. And the 15-minute ally meetings are a process that I teach inside of Executive Ahead of Time. But basically, it's a way that you can connect with senior executive leaders on a regular basis to really build that trust so that they see you as an executive leader, so that you really become that executive ahead of time.
And she was trying to decide what she wanted to talk to this leader about. And we were kind of working through it. But I noticed that the first couple of agenda items that she was mentioning, it kind of sounded a little bit like 'blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah'. And I was laughing. I was like, 'oh, gosh. nobody wants to hear that'. The problem is that we can hear that. And I know she could hear that in her head, that it just kind of sounded like a lot of blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And that is why you're not scheduling the meeting. That's why you're so afraid to have the 15-minute ally meeting. Because you're afraid you're just going to sound like a lot of 'blah, blah, blah, blah, blah'. But the good thing is that she's part of this program. She could bring it up ahead of time. She could actually ask for advice on how to turn that 'blah, blah, blah' into a golden nugget.
So, today's episode is to teach you how you can turn that 'blah, blah, blah', into a golden nugget of conversation - a conversation that senior executive leaders actually care about. That they truly want to have these conversations with you, that they're not just doing you a favor. That they actually look forward to meeting with you on a regular basis.
So, I'm going to give you several, several examples from my clients and how they have turned the relationships around with different people at their organizations using my method of going from 'blah blah blah blah blah' to a golden nugget.
But first of all - before I get into that - I really want to unpack why you are so much more likely to do the 'blah, blah, blah'. So, there's a couple of things that happen for my clients when they first start doing this process of creating these 15-minute ally meetings. And the first thing that comes to mind is wanting to impress the other person. It makes sense because you don't have a relationship with this person. They're at a higher level. There's this hierarchical situation going on. You want to have this conversation with them. You want to impress them. You want to give off a good impression. But think about it. When you have seen somebody in your own personal life who was trying really hard to make a good impression, but they're kind of like floundering a little bit. What do you think about them?
I've seen this in my own life in two ways. You usually see it with younger people, right? So, some people who are really hungry and they're just starting out their careers and they're trying to make a good impression and dress for success and be really strong, and all that stuff. And you're like, 'Oh, my gosh, that's so cute. Good for them. Oh, that's great. Oh, I'm so happy for them'. And then there's the other person that just seems like they're trying too hard. And they're just like, 'Oh, my gosh, this person is just trying too hard. You know and I've got to get back to work. I have other things that I need to be working on right now'. And so, unfortunately, our desire to impress, our desire to come off strong, really. at the end of the day just sounds like a lot of 'blah, blah, blah'. And it never looks good. It never looks good. Because if you're that young eager person that looks like a little puppy - you don't want to come off that way. You don't even have to be younger in terms of age. But you don't want to come off as that 'oh', because that's not being the executive ahead of time.
In some ways, that's like what I considered to be a high potential employee. I actually hate that word at that term because I think it's a cop out. So, you sort of say, 'oh, you know, they have potential'. I don't want my clients to have potential. I want my clients to be seen as an executive, as an equal, because they are.
Do you hear that when you're listening to this? If you're listening to this podcast, you are an executive and so I want you to start acting like it. So, we're not going to be having these conversations - this 'blah, blah, blah'. And we're not going to be showing up to our meetings with executive leaders looking like a lost puppy or a hungry, eager puppy or a high potential ‘look how great we are'. And then we're also not going to show up like we're trying to overly impress them with a bunch of knowledge or something that doesn't even make sense to the conversation. Instead, we're going to come into the conversation with this golden nugget - this cool, calm cucumber - that I know you can do because you've done it before. You probably do it every single fricking week with your team.
So, most of the people who I work with are really incredible leaders for their team because they have that status. Their team sees them as the leader. And so, they're able to control the room, quote unquote. They're able to drive the conversation because they're seen as the leader. So that's the type of person that you're going to bring into these 15-minute ally meetings, into these executive level conversations - is this powerful executive that you already are. You have all of this inside of you. You just haven't honed in on the communication to go from the 'blah, blah, blah' to the gold nugget. So, I'm going to show you how I have done this with a couple of different of my clients and give you really clear examples, so that you can pick one and start doing that yourself.
So, the first person that comes to mind is a client who is in my Promotion Accelerator program, and she has started to have monthly conversations with the CEO of her organization. Now, this is like, to you that might seem impossible - but I tell you - I have coached many women to have these types of conversations - even in really big multi-thousand, (many thousands of people) organizations, very large organizations - to have very direct and regular conversations with their CEO. So, I'm starting with this one because I think that it almost feels probably impossible for a lot of people - but it's imperative that you show up the right way. And why it's so important is because we want these conversations to keep going; because at the end of the day, you can show up and you can come off as the eager puppy, and that's okay. You're not going to upset your CEO. It's just that you're going to be seen as mediocre. You're not going to be seen as that executive. So, you're not going to get fired for it; but you're also not going to gain anything from it. And I want you to gain that trust and that understanding and to shift perception that you are the executive leader.
So, my client has regular conversations with her CEO now, and it seems really funny because at the beginning she was just like, 'What? why would I even do that?' And I was just telling her he likes her. When she interviewed for her job about a year ago - she interviewed with the CEO first. He was putting her up for the job. He wanted her to take that job. And so, the biggest mindset shift that she had to change, is she started to have to believe that he wanted to talk to her. That he actually valued her opinion as an executive leader, and she's not even an executive leader. She's a senior director. She is an executive, but she doesn't have that actual seat at the table yet. She's not in the leadership team meetings, so she's not actually one of the executives. But she needed to own her value and that she belonged to that organization. I just coached her on that every single week. Once she started to really believe that she knew what to say to her CEO. And basically, it looks a little bit like this.
She figures out some sort of leadership lesson, something that she's been inspired by, whether it's in her industry, something that she read, something that she's curious about, something that she wants to know more about in the industry and the world, in leadership and all kinds of different things; and she brings that topic to the conversation. And her CEO is delighted. He says, 'what do you got for me this week?'. He's so excited to talk to her about this. And she's the only one who was doing it at her organization. This is the other thing. You will stand out above the rest.
Now let me take you through the conversation that inspired this episode. So, the woman who asked the question, she has a senior executive meeting coming up and she wanted to know what to talk about. So, the first thing that she brought up to me was resources - that her team is under-resourced. And so, I asked her what her biggest challenge was, if she was going to bring that up with him. And she was like, 'yeah, well, you know, I think my biggest challenges that I'm under-resourced.' And I was like, 'Okay, well, what does that mean?' 'Well, you know, we're losing people. We're taking on more responsibility. It feels like we're a bit overwhelmed. We can't keep up with our deadlines', all of the stuff.
And I'm like staring at her on this call and my eyes are getting big. And I'm like, 'oh, my God, that sounds awful.' Don't bring that up with your senior executive leader that you've never even met with before. And I think part of her knows that - that's why she wasn't going to bring it up, because she's like, 'Oh, that just sounds like complaining'. But I'm glad that she brought it up in coaching because then we were able to go from the 'blah, blah, blah', - because that's what it sounds like 'I am complaining over here' - into something that's actually useful. Because here's where we normally go. We say, 'well, I don't want to talk with my senior executive leader about what's really bothering me because it's going to sound like a 'bunch of blah blah blah, so I'll just ask him questions' - which is fine. And I also recommend that as a technique - just ask the other person a bunch of questions. But it doesn't really get to the juice of what would actually be useful to talk about.
And so, here's the golden nugget that I actually pulled out of this conversation and something else that she can talk to about with her senior executive leader. And that was - why are they so overwhelmed? Now, here's where it's getting good. So, her team - the group that she runs at her organization - has been given more responsibility.
Why? Because they're one of the biggest growing teams in the organization.
Why? Because they are bringing in a lot of money to the organization.
Why? Because they're really great at the work that they do.
So now what she's going to do instead is she's going to start the conversation from that place. Do you see how this is more of a golden nugget? Actually, I made this noise in the coaching call -'aaahhhh'- because it is. It's so much more impactful to say something like 'We have been given all of this responsibility over the last six months. Why? Because we've done it all. We completed this. We did this. We did this really well. I've been leading the team in this way. And all of that is great. But now we're under-resourced.'
Oh, my goodness. Now that executive is looking at her like, wow, you're right. You guys have been killing it over there. You've been leading this team that is just doing an absolutely fantastic job. And, of course, you're under-resourced. And so maybe perhaps - I mean I don't know where the conversation will go from there - but maybe perhaps he'll think of an idea of how he can actually support her or offer some advice. But at the very least, he's going to walk away from that conversation seeing her as an executive - seeing her as a leader that works for one of the biggest, fastest growing organizations at her company. Do you see where I'm going here? That is a golden nugget of truth. That is a golden nugget of conversation right there.
Another example of something that I want to give you is a client who is inside (all of these students are inside) my Promotion Accelerator program. So, we've been working together for many months, really implementing this, and getting to the heart of their confidence so that they're actually building those conversations. And as part of the program, I do stakeholder interviews, so I actually interview two key stakeholders at their organization. And so, I was interviewing one of my clients, her boss, and then also another senior executive leader at her organization and getting some feedback.
And I was so ecstatic during this feedback session because her boss says to me - and so her boss doesn't know how long we have been working together and if it's been two weeks or if it's been six months or whatever - and she says to me how much my client has improved over the last three months. And she didn't talk about improving in terms of her knowledge. She said she's always been super knowledgeable. She always gets her work done. She's an incredible leader. But her communication has improved astronomically over the past few months. And over the past few months, her boss really started to notice that she was speaking more to the bigger picture, to the strategy, to solving problems for the organization as a whole - really understanding the politics - versus just being in the 'blah, blah, blah' all the time. And that is not what her boss said. But her boss said something like she used to not come up with solutions on her own. She would look towards the other executives, the hierarchy, and ask them what they thought. And now what she's doing is she's going into the conversation and says, 'this is what I think we should do. What do you think?' So, she's posing a solution first and then offering and gathering feedback from that place. So that's what it looks like for her.
And the reason why this is so important is because it's not a trust issue in terms of whether or not she'll get her job done. It's a trust issue to whether or not she can lead at that higher executive level. And so now her boss over the last couple of months has really seen the shift in her. And my client didn't have to go out and get a new degree. She didn't have to go out and learn a bunch of skills. She just had to change the way she was communicating. She had to communicate in terms of that golden nugget - that higher level picture - be able to speak to the vision and not just the problem.
And here's the thing - which I already knew from my client - is that her boss has decided to create a role for her. She is creating a role for her because at her particular organization, there's not an ability to get her promoted into a higher-level role - that role doesn't exist. So, she has to create a different level of responsibility for her. And now her boss is motivated to do so because she's actually seen my client step up - she's seen my client start to talk like that executive. She knows not only can she handle all of this stuff - all of the details, get in the weeds, solve the problems, be good at her job - but she can also lead. She has the ability to pull out that golden nugget of information - to not get sucked into the weeds - to speak to that higher level vision.
Because here's the thing, my friends. You cannot get promoted into a senior executive leadership position if you are stuck in the weeds all of the time. Now, you might get promoted and I do have clients that come into my Executive Ahead of Time program, even at the C Suite level. Yes - even at the C suite level. So, they got promoted. But do you know what they also got? More weeds, more problems. They got a lot more headaches.
And so, here's the beauty, if you are a manager - if you're a senior manager, if you're a director, if you're a senior director - and you can start to learn to speak and communicate from that golden nugget, from that higher level vision now - you are going to scale that with you. And you know what happens when you scale that with you - so much more happiness and freedom. The freedom to not feel like you have to do it all yourself. The freedom to hire the right team at the right time. The freedom to lead that team, to trust that team, to jump in and solve problems as needed. The freedom to go out and get resources ahead of time to anticipate obstacles. All of that starts to happen so that when you - because now notice I said 'when you' - when you get into that senior executive position, when you get promoted to the C Suite, when you become that chief impact officer or that chief people officer or that chief technology officer - when you become that person - you are an executive officer. You know what it takes, and it starts now.
So, I challenge you this week after listening to today's episode, listening to these three examples, really ask yourself - Am I speaking to the 'blah, blah, blah', or am I able to pull out that golden nugget? Am I able to speak to that higher solution and my organization so that I can start building trust? I want you to schedule these 15-minute ally meetings. I want you to trust yourself, but I also want you to do it well. I want you to use your time wisely, because I know you are ready for that executive leadership position. And now it's just a matter of letting them know that you are ready for that senior executive leadership position. Thank you so much for listening, and I'll see you next week - Bye.
About Your Host
Hi! I'm Stacy Mayer, a Certified Executive Coach and Promotion Strategist on a mission to bring more diversity to the leadership table by getting 1000 underrepresented corporate managers promoted into senior executive positions each year worldwide.
I help undervalued executives scale to the C-Suite using repositioning strategies that build your confidence and visibility, so you can earn the recognition and support you need from key stakeholders while embodying your unique leadership style.
My podcast “Women Changing Leadership with Stacy Mayer” tackles topics like executive communication, getting more respect in the workplace from challenging bosses and team members, and avoiding the common mistakes that sabotage career advancement.