Top Characteristics of Successful Independent Executives (Part 2)
Independent executives that are on the top of their game have some traits in common
We understand that most independent executives are at the top of their field. They are the best at what they do and can solve most CEOs’ problems. So why isn’t anyone signing on the dotted line or referring more?
By far, doing one’s own business development and sales is the most challenging part of being an independent executive. We often hear, “It is so much easier to sell someone or something else than myself.” One would think that, because nobody knows an executive better than him- or herself, he or she would be the best person for the task.
So why are some executives really good at it while others struggle year after year?
Independent executives don’t become successful without having extensive knowledge and years of experience. However, there are some who go on to be more successful at securing opportunities than others. We have seen this more influenced by traits and characteristics than work history and methodology. Not all are needed at all times, and fortunately, most can be learned if they currently don’t sit on top of your “strengths” list. As obvious as most are, there is a fine line between executives who can check them off on a list versus those who leverage them for success.
Communication Skills of an executive
Good verbal and written communication skills are useful in a variety of situations. It starts with communicating what executives do best, how they do it and the impact they can have for clients. It continues when they are initially meeting with clients, the ability to quickly understand their needs, and effectively communicate their thoughts and input. It then becomes more critical than ever as they work with clients and need to convey everything from progress to problems. As we saw in the prior examples of Bob and Craig, lack of communication can lead to or help avoid critical situations. Open and succinct communication can make the difference in getting referrals—or not.
Expert Knowledge of an executive
One of the main reasons executives are approached by clients is for their expertise, which the client expects to be significantly better than that possessed by anyone internally. Because of time constraints, the client looks to the executive for help with troubleshooting problems they have no time to learn about. The executive’s knowledge should be broad enough to know what questions to ask, where to research for solutions, and when to involve other executives or experts. If an executive reaches a point at which he or she is stuck and doesn’t feel like the best person to solve the issue, the executive can use contacts within his or her network to reach out to for help and advice, or refer them in to the client as the expert for that particular issue.
We were contacted by an executive who worked with a group of experts within the consumer goods industry. The group was presenting to a client who wanted to automate his plant. The group had an extensive amount of experience within this industry, including operations and technology backgrounds, having done this many times before. However, they did not have specific experience on some of the automated machinery the client was looking to implement. The group had done quite a bit of research and had enough combined knowledge that they certainly could have figured it out. Instead, they searched out someone who had the specific engineering background needed and brought him in on the engagement. One of the core values they offer clients is that they are all seasoned at what they do and there is no learning on the job.
An executive’s knowledge should also be current. He or she can stay updated through magazines, training, conferences, and networking with other professionals in the industry. Executives should know their expertise and their sweet spot rather than try to be all things to their client. Every penny the client spends should be invested in the best person to do the job. Additional classes, seminars, and certifications can be useful to deepen an executive’s level of expertise and keep current on a range of topics that are important to clients.
Professionalism of an executive
It’s very important for executives to maintain a high level of professionalism. This should be consistent, from their profile picture to the rest of their online digital footprint to the simplest interactions with clients, such as e-mails. Be cautious of using pictures with the family dog or kids as a LinkedIn picture, and watch what is posted on a Facebook page set to public view. More times than not, we all have at least a few professional acquaintances on Facebook or Twitter; if executives want to feel free to post what they want, they should consider cleaning up their Friends list first. When e-mailing or texting, emoji or abbreviations should be used with care. It’s better to spell it out so the message is clear and concise as a professional.