In response to my previous post on not wasting executives' time, somebody asked me how to approach one with a new idea. Here are a few tips.
1. Men - be assertive. Women - be aggressive. Executives don't realize how scary they are. Ask for their time. They won't kill you. I separate this by gender because women, especially older women, tend to be more insecure and indirect than men about promoting themselves. Women will work quietly in the background and hope someone discovers them. They won't. Watch the Katy Perry music video, "Part of Me." Be a Marine!!!!
2. Be positive. Executives hate negative. Remember they are surrounded by negative, they get criticism all the time, they are afraid themselves. Whatever it is, it's a good thing. (I could not use Sharepoint until I changed "workflow" to "playflow" in my mind. Words make a huge difference.)
3. Words before paper. Executives need to see your face, and hear your words, before they see a document. You can spend three years writing a dissertation on the paperless office only to find that some other shmoozer passed you by, got their ear, and got the credit.
4. Research Your Target. Within appropriate limits, learn about the executive you are trying to reach. At a glance I can usually get the Myers-Briggs and partly the astrology. Learn about their cultural background, history, previous places worked, hobbies, etc. This is basic marketing. It is all about them, you have to speak their language not your own. For example I had another boss who loved dogs. I hate dogs. You know what? For many years I loved dogs. (I guess now she may learn that I hate dogs.)
5. Find Out Who Has The Keys. Are you reaching the right person? You don't have to knock down the executive's front door. Do they have a peer who is more accessible, who cares about what you care about? Are you able to get an appointment with the executive - are you on good terms with the people who work with and for them? You have to approach the executive as part of a network, not as an individual on their own.
Last piece of advice but probably the most important - some executives do not wish to be approached directly. Find out if that is the case and NEVER violate their space. Or you may find yourself in the headlights of that icy glare. Yes, it happens. No it is not fun.