The C-Suite is Asking the “Wrong” Questions – Really???

Communication folks – ever feel like you’re bumping your head against the wall trying to get “them” to “get it”? Maybe it’s time to take a step back, do a brutally honest self-assessment and consider that maybe, just maybe, you aren’t getting it!

I’m preparing for a presentation at a national health care communications conference this fall and was looking for insights from CEOs and senior leaders about what they see as the disconnect between how their communication professionals approach social media and what’s important to the C-suite.

Here’s a response I received from a communication professional: “The most common demand that the C-suite has about social media is “what’s the ROI?” The problem is that’s the wrong question.”

Really? Therein lies the disconnect.

This person went on to provide all kinds of additional support for their position, drawing upon the wisdom of others in the communication profession whose opinions and perspectives aligned with theirs. But, again, that’s the problem. Communication professionals are “speaking to the choir” when they commiserate with each other about how “misinformed” the C-suite is. The fact of the matter is that communication professionals (and others in service roles, like HR staff, legal services, etc.) exist to serve the C-suite.

It’s like the old “tree falling in the forest” scenario. If you’re not meeting the needs of the C-suite, you are not providing value, regardless of how valuable you and your communication peers believe you are. Tough to take, but it’s the truth. You will continue to beat your head against the proverbial glass ceiling if you don’t learn how to translate the benefits of your communication efforts into language that the C-suite not only understands, but that they value.

Face it. Businesses (even not-for-profit businesses like most health care organizations) do not exist to do things that might be making a difference. Particularly in a climate that is rife with ambiguity, competition, regulation and massive demographic shifts, businesses do not have the luxury to “have faith” in the ability of their communication departments’ efforts to provide value. These departments need to prove that they are providing value, not based on communication-speak, but based on the language of the C-suite. Invariably, that is the language of numbers–finance.

It really doesn’t matter how many friends, followers or fans you have. It really doesn’t matter how many nice comments you get on your Facebook page. It really doesn’t matter if you win awards through your communication associations and are lauded for your creative work.

What matters? Results.

If you want to be a communication  leader, not just a communication practitioner, here’s are some important first steps:

1) Know what’s on your organization’s strategic plan. (In my experience, most of you don’t!)

2) Identify ways in which what you do can help to drive the initiatives on the strategic plan–connect the dots. If the things you’re doing don’t drive those strategic plan objectives, you are not providing value.

3) Learn to speak the language of the C-suite. Get over your communication babble, stop trying to “educate” the senior leaders and start communicating them in language they understand–the language of leaders.

If you don’t? You will be gone. They (the C-suite leaders who “don’t get it”) will still be there. See how that works?

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