Benefits and Compensation

C-Suite—What to Say and What NOT to Say

Csizmar, who is founder and principal of CMC Compensation Group, offered his tips at a recent webinar sponsored by BLR.

The Recommendation to Management

Finally, you get to make your presentation to senior management, says Csizmar. The trick is to get them nodding their heads first before your recommendations see the light of day

Tell them a story, Csizmar says. Explain what’s wrong in a way that they understand and they see it. Use concrete examples and metrics and data. Give them a reason to nod their heads.

Put out things that are obvious. Build your case with objective, neutral data, says Csizmar.  You might state that:

  • We are behind the market
  • Our top performers are leaving
  • We have morale issues

But don’t offer too much data. If you do, top managers will feel that it’s necessary to push back with questions and to retain control—this interferes with flow of your presentation. You want  to keep the attnetion on you as a leader focused on the bigger picture.

Get them worried. They’ll want to know how things went South. Your job is not to assign blame, but to explain, and to show that you understand the situation and have the solution, says Csizmar. Be sure to:

  • Explain what you want to do to solve problems you’ve described
  • Speak with confidence
  • Show how your recommendations will make things better
  • Give the cost—they are going to ask anyway
  • Be realistic. Don’t overestimate savings or ROI. (Hopefully, the CFO is already on your side.)

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What Not to Tell Them

There are several approaches to avoid, says Csizmar, because they will distract or annoy top management. First of all, as mentioned above, not too much detail. Then avoid phrases like:

  • “It’s the right thing.”
  • “The survey says”
  • “Everyone else is doing it”
  • “We have to do this”

Don’t’ try to push. You want nodding, not shaking of heads, Csizmar says.

Moving Past the Green Light

OK, you may have weathered a beating, but you have the go ahead to roll out programs. Now the clock is ticking—management wants to see action.

Focus on communication, says Csizmar. Do more than just issuing a memo. Make sure all managers understand what you are doing and what you hope to accomplish. All managers need full documentation, new ranges, FAQs, etc, plus a contact phone number gfor any questions.

Finally, he says, de‐brief. What can you learn from your experiences? What went tight and what went wrong. Now you’re already working on next year’s process!

Learning to deal with top management—an important skill, but also just one more thing to add to the list of compensation challenges. “Maintain internal equity and external competitiveness and control turnover, but still meet management’s demands for lowered costs.” Heard that one before?  

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