How do I get executives to play with me?


NOTE: All photos in this post are from a Montreal workshop that Sebastien Giroux and I offered to a Law Association - yes, very serious people.


There is one question people repeatedly ask us in many countries where we present: How can you get serious people and C-suite executives and other seriously busy people to play with you?


This is an important and valuable question; and doubt and fear hide beneath the surface.


People worry they will not be taken seriously if they show up armed with suggestions of play.


Leaders are under extreme amounts of stress, and CEOs and executives are demanding measurable results. Few leaders and organizations are able to manage their own conflicts; they struggle to make good decisions.


Let us start with some research. By the age of ten, most children have already learned that play is fun and enjoyable but not important in the real world. This helps explain why it can be so hard to convince executives to play: They have held this belief for decades, while working hard to achieve success. Why should they be freeing up valuable work time to play?


If you can’t sell play, what are you selling? 


The answer to this question is so simple, yet many people often miss it. Do not try to sell play, the process, LEGO®, or any of your tools. Do not try to sell arts, crafts, creativity, or even innovation.


Simply focus on the results. Explain the outcomes.


How do you do this? Start by asking great questions. Here are a few you can ask any CEO or Leader:


  • Are you worried your organization is wasting resources?
  • Would it be helpful if more people were engaged?
  • Could your organization benefit from more alignment around projects or processes?


Most CEOs and other C-suite executives are going to answer with a resounding YES.  Now that you have their attention, ask if they are interested in hearing about the results you have helped other companies attain. If they are, give concrete examples from some of your projects. Remember this: No one wants to hear second-hand examples about others’ successes.  Use a real-time example, such as: In 2021, we worked together with XYZ, who were struggling with (insert the issues). Together, we were able to achieve this great measurable outcome (insert the outcome). 


When people realize your going to get results, they are ready to try something new. 


You need to be thoughtful when speaking with executives. Leaders will be open to listening to and considering your suggestions if you are respectful in your presentation. If they are not interested, thank them for the gift of their time. It may not be the right moment for them, but there is still good news. You had a chance to leave a lasting impression. If you managed the opportunity well, they may circle back later or even suggest your name to another leader.


At Strategic Play, we use the analogy of being good farmers. We till the earth, fertilize the ground, plant seeds, help each other, and we are grateful for each and every opportunity. 


(Sebastien Giroux far left,  Jacqueline Lloyd Smith, far right -  serious people in the middle).  



If you are interested in learning more about this topic, let us know.


Until then, happy farming.


  • 6/11/2023 10:50:12 PM
  • Jacqueline Lloyd Smith
  • 0
  • Leadership

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