Speaking “Executive”: Cutting Through the Language Barrier

September 21 2017 | by Kristi Weierbach, Ph.D., SPHR, SHRM-SCP, FPC

With approximately 6,909 known languages in the world, the study of language is fascinating, but it can also be a significant barrier. Even when speaking our native language, we adapt how we communicate depending on who we are communicating with. For instance, we talk differently with our children than with our parents; we speak differently with a novice than with an expert. One of the biggest communications challenges businesses face is lack of understanding between executives and non-executives. So, how can you as an HR professional overcome the “executive language” barrier to have a more meaningful impact on leadership? Let’s start by translating it.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

How many times do you prepare for a meeting with your leadership that ends up going nowhere? Do you walk away from meetings with your executives trying to decipher and translate what they said and what they meant? It’s not unusual, and it results in frustration and inefficiency for everyone. Understanding who you are talking to, how they process information and how they prefer to communicate can significantly improve your results.

While not all executives are alike, many rose to their leadership role because they exhibit certain characteristics and maintain individual strengths. Knowing the personality type of your executive leaders can help you better understand his/her needs. At Stambaugh Ness, we accomplish this through our adoption of a strengths-based culture. Every employee, including executive leadership, participates in a detailed process that identifies their top strengths. It’s an insider’s look at what makes that person tick, their motivators, and the communication approaches they are more likely to respond to.

What’s HR Got to Do With It?

While we are not able to dive deeply into individual personalities in this blog, we can take a more general look at the executive language. Typically, leadership positions yearn for concise information and the data to back it up. So, come to them not with a problem, but with a solution. The average executive doesn’t approach business from a human resources perspective, so it is critical that you communicate in a way that connects HR to the strategic goals of the organization. For example, demonstrate how hiring talent will help the company reach their goals, or show how repositioning roles and responsibilities will drive efficiency and grow profits.

Some additional ideas to explore include the use of visuals and metrics to help tell your story, whatever it takes to speak their language. Discover whether your executive prefers email, phone, or in person communications and use that to your advantage. All of these small things can add up to significant gains for you and your department.

By understanding your executive’s language better, you will be in a position to have a greater impact on the organization and ensure that human resources has a seat at the table. Watch this on-demand webinar and discover more tip/tricks about how to Influence not only your boss, but the executive team.

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