By Rameesha Syed on October 11, 2022
3 minute read
A 3-Part Conversation Between an IC Consultant and an In-House Internal Comms Professional About How to Work the C-Suite

In this article, Mike Klein, Senior Strategic Advisor to Sparrow Connected and founder of #WeLeadComms, speaks with Thomas Grøndorf, a 20+ year communications veteran with experience working with all aspects of communication across various industries. Thomas is currently Head of Internal, Strategy and Financial Communication at the international engineering consultancy #COWI. 

Let’s dive into the insightful conversation. 

 

Mike:  

Working with the C-Suite is considered one of the biggest challenges facing communication pros in general, and internal communication leaders in particular. So, I’ve invited Thomas Grøndorf, my former boss and a real master at this, to discuss his experiences and some things people should consider when working with top execs. Welcome Thomas! 

Thomas: 

Thanks Mike, and thanks for bringing up such a great topic. 

Mike:  

We at Sparrow Connected like to address the topics of real interest to communication leaders, and this is one that a lot of people see as a daunting challenge. Before we get into specifics, what should people see as the most important things to do when establishing c-level relationships? 

Thomas: 

I think there are a couple of things that are important. First, you only get invited to the C-Suite if you are a really good craftsman - a real pro that handles a task exposed to the execs. That’s kind of the starting point. If you then want to continue being invited, I think you need to have a strong business acumen - you need to show execs that you understand the business, what drives value, their priorities - why, because that’s one of the key elements to establish trust between you and the execs. 

Mike: 

So, is it a function of being invited - or are there ways to initiate, to make the first move? 

Thomas: 

Well, in my experience you are normally invited due to your professional skills. They need an internal campaign, a roll-out of a new strategy etc. First time, you don’t just knock on the door and say, ‘hey I got a great idea’, unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. You need to be delivering solid results. 

Mike: 

So, if you are new to an organization, is the secret to really get things organized and humming within your function or department first, to be delivering and make sure you have few visible issues? 

Thomas: 

Yes, start with understanding the vibe in the organisation, the (business) priorities, what’s on the agenda for the execs. In my current job, I started just as we had to publish our H1 report which is my responsibility. I spent quite some time listening to my boss, talking to various people in the comms team and the business to get a solid understanding of how my employer was really doing.  

Then I had a meeting with the CEO where I just listened to his take on the situation, asked a few clarifying questions and then went back and drafted a portal news and shareholder newsletter which seemed to hit the right tone and messaging. So, listening first is critical - when you then understand the situation and leaders’ priorities then you can unfold your professional skills and deliver something that hit target. This creates the first kind of trust in you as a professional. 

Mike: 

So, if you want to be proactive - be proactive about learning rather than by trying to start doing stuff and getting people to buy in? And perhaps to start with your own boss, and then expand to other people at their level? 

Thomas: 

I wouldn’t have had my career without being really good at connecting with people across the entire organisation. Getting their input, their take on the current situation - digesting this input, building a strong understanding of what’s happening in the organisation and using this intel to give better communication advice to execs. So, your listening skills are fundamental if you want to be a good communicator. That combined with being a relationship builder. 

 

To be continued...   
 
Stay tuned for part two of this series where Mike and Thomas continue this conversation, tackling topics like:   

  • The Need for Small Talk, Confidence and Courage 
  • Trust Comes in Three Layers 
  • Ask The Right Questions 
  • Understanding the Outcome Vs Output Debate 
  • Building A Communication Culture 
  • And much more... 

 

What’s Next:  


 

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