Less is More When Communicating with Senior Leaders

FMC’s EVP and CTO Kathy Shelton says ‘know your audience’ and ‘keep it simple’
Industry Matters Newsletter
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Like most ACS members, my career revolves around technology and innovation. As scientists, we’re wired to be thorough, cite sources, and provide as much detail as humanly possible. That works for a dissertation or when you’re defending results from the lab. But presenting to senior executives takes some different skills. 

Executives make a dozen decisions daily that impact every aspect of the company, so it’s understandable that their time is limited. Here are a few tips to ensure you’re communicating with clarity.

Know your audience: Some senior leaders may have a technical background, but in most cases, you will be communicating to leaders who come from commercial, marketing, or maybe finance backgrounds. Prepare your remarks knowing your audience.

Keep it simple: “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one,” is a famous line attributed to Mark Twain and others. Time is limited—be sure to structure your communication in succinct sections that clearly address the issue or problem, why it’s important for your audience to understand, and your recommended solutions.

Practice: Treat every presentation as an opportunity to shine. Be sure to practice beforehand. Can you answer likely questions? Does your story flow logically? Do you come across as confident? Make sure you can answer ‘yes’ to each of these.

Kathy Shelton, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, FMC Corporation
Kathy Shelton, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, FMC Corporation

Dr. Kathleen Shelton joined FMC in November 2017 with the FMC-DuPont transaction. As the global leader of the Company’s robust discovery and development pipelines, Dr. Shelton leads an organization of nearly 800 scientists located around the world, with laboratories in India, Brazil, France, Denmark and the United States. The largest site, located in Newark, Delaware, United States, has over 350 employees working in chemistry, biology, regulatory sciences, engineering and analytical science. Under her leadership, the FMC Crop Protection Research and Development organization won the prestigious 2018 Agrow Award for the “Most Innovative Pipeline” in the agricultural industry.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

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