What will you discuss if you are invited for lunch by your Senior Leaders?

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“What do you think, you will discuss, if a Business Head calls you over for lunch?” I asked.

My coachee was surprised and looked uncomfortable, and it seemed to be a situation he had never experienced. He had never been invited for such a one to one meeting, and felt he would not be unless there was something urgent needed from him. From a discussion, he thought his senior leader would be interested in the status and progress of various recruitments and perhaps the quality of candidates he was looking at and his views on how they could expedite the recruitment. He said he usually had all the details at his fingertips and it would not be very difficult.

“Not bad,” I said, “that you are always prepared. What can you do to make the Business Head look forward to meeting you and having lunch with you regularly?”

My coachee smiled and said, “when I have the right stature for him to spend time.”

“What needs to be done for you to gain the right stature?” I enquired.

He said, “when the organization officially recognizes me with appropriate rank and title.”

“Your rank and title are not in your control, lets discuss about actions which are in your control.

How can you leverage your knowledge of business, knowledge of markets and competition and your insights across the company and make every Business Unit Head look to you for guidance?” I asked.

He said that he had not thought about it.

I asked him to think about it and while our next session was a month away, I suggested that I could come specifically to have lunch in 15 days and do a mock session of the meeting with the Business Unit Head. We could even include his supervisor who understood the nuances of the business better and he could also add valuable inputs.

What can you share in the conversation that will interest him? Can you tell him something he does not know, yet something that will be extremely valuable to him? Take an example and work with it.

He asked if he could do some thinking and call me as he prepared. I agreed that he could do so.

On my way out we met his supervisor together and requested him to support the coachee in this process. He was more than willing and we agreed to a date for this lunch session.

My coachee was a senior HR professional, in the corporate function, of a large organization, with multiple business divisions, each with unique manpower requirements. He was responsible for the recruitment function and the company wanted to groom him in the long run to head the HR function. Strategically, the business was rapidly expanding and HR had a significant role in shaping the future of the organization.

My coachee had a strong background of setting the HR operations and was known for his strength to operationalize and deliver on difficult initiatives. He had good relationships with all his stakeholders and was seen as highly reliable. There was unanimous agreement from the 360 feedback on my coachees ability to effectively plan and deliver on large initiatives. However the senior management was expecting him to provide more strategic inputs. It was important that he built this ability to engage more strategically with the senior management.

We met for lunch along with his supervisor after two weeks. He had done some thinking and preparation. As part of the preparation he did call me and I provided some more inputs. He shared some interesting insights and trends during this meeting, which was a pleasant departure from his transactional focus. He had made a good beginning and now had a new way of seeing his business from a larger picture.

We also agreed that he would be an observer in some of his supervisor’s meetings with the senior management and journal the learnings of how his supervisor contributes to the strategic direction of various businesses.

I continue to monitor his progress during our sessions and he shares examples of his contributions to various businesses. I am sure the change in approach to help shape various divisions will soon make him a regular lunch partner for various senior management. The question of how he would make his Business Leaders look to him has helped him to step up and get a new perspective of his role and
contributions to the company.

– SRINIVAS UPPALURI

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