Join John Ullmen for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding how leaders manage time, part of Connecting with Executives.
- View Offline
Now, a common concern that I hear about a lot, when it comes to making connections with senior people, has to do with their accessibility. Are they willing to meet with me? Oh they're too busy. It's hard to get connected with them, they're just going to say no. And I really want to encourage you,uh to think about that quite differently. The most senior people that I know are willing and wanting to have meetings like this. They want to give back, they want to mentor, they want to help out. But, they're also very constrained for time. And now I'm drawing on an experience here.
Over the years, the last couple decades as an executive coach, I've worked very closely with hundreds of senior leaders across all different types of organizations from start up organizations, early stage, mid size, big consulting firms, law firms. And other professional services firms, non profits and a whole host of fortune 500 companies have worked with senior executives from the likes of Apple and Disney, Cisco, Raytheon, Frito-Lay and, and many others. And I want to share with you yes, indeed most senior people are really wanting to have these kind of meetings.
But they can't have them with everyone who asks and they need to be very selective about how they use their time. In fact, one story that comes to mind about this that really sticks with me, I was working with the CEO of a medical services firm, and coaching him for a couple of years and working with his senior team, and this firm is the dominant player in their industry in the United States, by far. They have as their clients more than half of the hospital systems in the entire country. And what this gentleman said to me is a quote that really stuck with me.
He said John my time is not my time. What did he mean by that? He said look. I can't just do it. I feel like it would be irresponsible for me not to be thoughtful and strategic about how I'm using my time. Because it's a leadership resource. I owe it to my team. I owe it to my people. I owe it to my company. I owe it to my clients to be very thoughtful about how I use my time. And if I'm not being thoughtful about that, then I'm being irresponsible to them and I'm letting them down. And so senior leaders need to make smart choices that is a good use of their time when it comes to who are they going to say yes to and why for these types of new connections with people they don't know.
And so I routinely ask the senior leaders I work with, who gets a yes from you and why? And, I've put together into three principles some guidelines for action and dealing with them based on what I've learned over the years from working with them. First principle is you gotta pass the why me test, right? Why me, what does that mean? That means, why are you, I'll play the role of the executive for a moment. Why are you asking me for my time? Why specifically me? Am I uniquely the one individual that is most appropriate for this meeting? Or, could someone else be just as good? Some other senior leader, or senior person would they fit the bill just as well.
And there is a a senior marketing executive from a global high tech firm, who stands out in my mind, he gave me a really great quote around this, he says. One of his motto's when it comes to who gets this kind of meeting, and who doesn't is this he says. If someone else can take the meeting, someone else can take the meeting, that's the why me test. Now second, make it easy for them to say yes. That's the second principle. Remember they've got (UNKNOWN) demands on their time and there may be a thousand good reasons for them to say no to requests like this, make it easy as possible for them to say yes.
Third principle is, you want to stand out in a positive way, there may be a thousand or more people who are trying to get their time you don't want to blend in the crowd you need to in the way you show up and interact and stand out in a positive way. So those are the three principles, let's next talk about how to put them into action specifically before, during, and after meetings with senior leaders.