Home / Influencing the executive – top three tips

Influencing the executive – top three tips

Aug 26 2016

About ten years ago now I undertook a small piece of research which examined what health and safety professionals and others can do to make an impact on executive directors and also what would put directors off the message.

Whilst not a massively scientific (not scientific at all!) piece of research, this involved me calling and emailing a range of board level contacts for their insight into what we could do better to ‘sell’ ideas and concepts to boards. Not to name names but this included some outstanding leaders including one who went on to lead on the development of one of the country’s largest ever global sport event park developments.

Looking back to 2006 when I first presented this to the then Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance (now MS Amlin) Risk Engineering annual event at Cambridge University, things have certainly moved on, not just for me, but for the health and safety profession as a whole. Back then there was somewhat less talk about influencing and any new competency frameworks and talk of ‘soft skills’, now moving to the forefront of what we do.

What doesn’t appear to have changed is the essence of these top three tips for influencing executive boards. Some of them may seem obvious, but the challenge is, as ever, in bringing them to life.

Keeping it concise.
It is tempting to produce large amounts of data and evidence to back up the reason for doing something (providing further papers and information upfront will usually assist with this). By all means have this information available, but have a very simple summary with how the proposed action will achieve its goals and what this looks like as a benefit to the board. One of the largest consultancy projects I led culminated in a single sheet of executive summary talked through with the CEO.

Know the audience
Perhaps obvious again, but who are the key influencers (this may not be who is the chair or CEO). Have you spoken to them about your proposals before the meeting/presentation and who might be on or offside? What will influence them?
I once made the mistake of talking too much about financial benefits to directors who had experienced fatal accidents in their business. Money was no longer the driver for health and safety decision making.

Visualise the success
Provide a simple two or three steps to success and what this might look like for them. Like in sales training, the key focus should be the benefits not the features. If you are looking at new software, I want to know how it will impact change, protect the company and provide me with better management information to enable me to make better decisions?