Depending on the size of your organization, you may not have spent much (if any) time with the CEO, especially if you’re new. But in most small businesses, the CEO is right there in the mix, helping with various day-to-day projects to ensure that the business runs smoothly in addition to generating big-picture growth.
If you get the opportunity to connect with upper management, it’s a valuable chance to learn and to share your thoughts. Whether you’re hoping to gain mentorship, get some clarity on where the company is headed, or discuss a specific project, it’s important to make the most of the meeting and to respect both the CEO’s time and yours.
Taking some time to prepare for the meeting beforehand will help you make the most of the opportunity and come out of it feeling excited, motivated, and good about the impression you made. Here are some tips for ensuring that your meeting goes smoothly.
Do Your Research! Understand the Role of a CEO
Although the term “CEO” gets tossed around casually today as a term describing someone who’s confident and in charge, a Chief Executive Officer has a specific role that’s different from the role of an owner or manager. CEOs usually oversee companies that are large enough to have a board, since the CEO title is usually given by a board of directors.
Understanding that subtle difference will help you speak more knowledgeably during your meeting and keep your expectations in check. A CEO doesn’t have all the decision-making power and they may need to run ideas by the board before they can make major changes.
Identify What You’d Like to Get Out of the Meeting
Getting a meeting with the CEO is a great opportunity. They’re busy people with a lot on their plate and their time is very valuable. You want to not only get value out of the meeting but you’ll also make sure that the CEO feels like their time was well-spent.
By identifying what you want to get out of the meeting before you shake hands and sit down, you’ll avoid some awkwardness and guide the conversation in a purposeful direction. The last thing you want is for the CEO to leave the meeting thinking “what was the point of that?”
Prepare Some Questions for the Conversation
It can be a little scary to sit down with upper management in a semi-casual setting. Even if you normally have no trouble striking up a conversation with someone, you may find yourself freezing up and forgetting all the questions you wanted to ask.
First, it’s important to remember that CEOs are just people. But you might still find yourself too intimidated to think up intelligent questions on the fly. The solution? Think of them in advance.
No, don’t bring a notecard with you. But spend some time brainstorming before your lunch so you can get the most out of your meeting. It’ll be much more interesting that way—and you’ll make a good impression.
The Night Before, Be Sure to Relax & Unplug From Work
If you’re nervous about your meeting, that’s totally normal! You probably have a lot of respect for the CEO and you might be worried about what he or she will think of you after the meeting.
The best way to handle your nerves the night before your lunch is to relax! Unplug from work and don’t spend the night Googling the CEO and dredging up random information on them. About 39% of American workers consistently work in the evenings, which isn’t healthy or even good for productivity.
Give yourself a break and take some of the pressure off. Working all the time can lead to burnout and you’ll probably be less sharp and engaged during the meeting if you don’t take some time for yourself.
Be Sure to Share How the Company Is Helping You Grow
During an informal lunch meeting, you’ll be sharing information about yourself and your goals for the future. Most CEOs love to see initiative within their teams, so be sure to mention the growth you’ve experienced while working for the company. This will help you to build goodwill and trust, opening up opportunities in the future.
A lunch with the CEO is a great way to connect and learn from someone who has successfully climbed the corporate ladder and taken the initiative to lead. Who knows? One day it might be you on the other side of the table.