High Level of Communication: Connecting with the C-Suite

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A businessperson talking to a c-suite executive in a meeting.To achieve success at every level, from staff workers to executives, individuals must understand how to communicate effectively with all employees, no matter how high up in the business. These skills, when practiced at a high level, can reduce confusion, encourage transparency and improve the productivity and collaboration of the entire executive team. Professionals must have a firm grasp of how to communicate effectively with members of the C-suite.

Companies have drastically changed the duties of C-suite executives during the last two decades. According to a study in the Harvard Business Review, since 2007, businesses seeking to fill C-suite positions have prioritized social abilities over operational capability. Employees looking to be noticed by higher-level executives, whether for career advancement or through regular business interaction, need to enhance their communication skills to stand out.

Achieving a high level of communication isn’t easy, and a good way to learn the necessary skills is to pursue an advanced degree that can help employees climb the career ladder.

What Does It Mean to Have a High Level of Communication?

When having a conversation with a peer or stakeholder, there is a difference between speaking casually and attempting to solve a problem or relay important information. High-level communication has a direct goal toward a specific result. One way to cultivate high-level communication is to craft “problem statements.” Asking how to solve a problem directly in the form of a question can drive communication in a direction to produce results.

Another method is clearly defining goals, as well as asking the same of one’s superiors. By communicating exactly what’s necessary from someone, it’s easier to meet expectations and deliver results. In many cases, listening between the lines is necessary to understand what someone is looking for. Paying attention through active listening and responding with the correct tone is another way to keep communication on track toward the desired goal.

High-Level Communication Is a Three-Way Street in Business

Senior leaders are responsible for communicating the company’s vision, and those who work for them must be able to communicate with executives, other employees as well as with the public. An effective and clear communication strategy can help achieve business objectives. Ultimately, communication on this three-way street begins with vision, continues with strategy and ends with thought leadership.


Vision is about articulating company goals — communicating inspiration, clarity and the focus of the work needed to accomplish that vision. A vision statement is usually brief and to the point without elaborate details, which can be addressed in greater depth after the audience has bought into the vision themselves.

Relaying vision can be accomplished in an “elevator pitch,” but simple use of storytelling can go a long way toward planting ideas in the minds of executives.


Communication is often about choosing the right moment to give the necessary information to get a point across. Being sure not to interrupt another conversation or step in at a bad time seems obvious, but can be easy to forget. Similarly, if an executive seems particularly receptive, that might be the opening necessary to get a message across. Remaining transparent in communication can also provide benefits, as it gives stakeholders a sense of trust in the speaker.

Thought Leadership

Thought leaders are well-versed in their field and familiar with their profession’s influences, technologies, market circumstances and people. They identify trends, provide insights, express ideas and inspire and influence others through their communications.

Thought leaders are seen as reliable sources of knowledge by their clients and customers, their colleagues and peers and the public.

Every Stakeholder Needs a High Level of Communication

Communication can be the key to success for individuals at all levels — especially those who directly communicate with or work at the C-suite level. Clearly explaining a project’s progress with frequent updates is an important type of high-level communication that can help a business run at optimal levels.

While all stakeholders matter, the level of communication for each should differ based on their need for information. For example, press releases may be more appealing to clients, while notice boards might be preferable for employees. Identifying the best methods and levels of communication for different audiences is a skill worth cultivating.

Ways to Improve C-Suite Communication Skills

Developing the skills necessary for C-suite communications can help individuals advance in their careers. There are several ways to improve business communications that professionals can implement right away.

Limit Confusing Language

In every industry, jargon and technical terms — such as “A/B testing,” “content marketing” or “conversion rate optimization” — pop up. Some don’t realize they’re using terms that are confusing to those around them. Using industry-specific jargon may seem like second nature, but it can exclude those who are trying to be part of the conversation.

By limiting these terms, employees can strengthen team bonds and build stronger relationships with executives. Additionally, it’s important to listen to what others are talking about and the terms they use to describe specific situations in the industry. Adopting simpler terms can help employees and executives alike as they work to become more communicative.

Know the Audience

Whether working in an entry-level role or as the chief executive officer, a team member must understand who their target audience is. Without an effective communication strategy, an employee could quickly lose the attention of their audience when delivering a pitch or presentation.

An important aspect of communication is knowing what is important to discuss when talking to members of the executive team. When presenting to a C-level professional, it’s critical to know how to answer a few key questions.

  • How can the company grow more quickly?
  • What is needed from the executive team?
  • How would the company’s competitors react to this idea?
  • What would happen if the company does nothing instead of pursuing this idea?
  • What are the assumptions being made?
  • How will this help the company’s customers?

If a team member can answer these questions with ease, their presentation is more likely to address the aspects of an idea or pitch that an executive cares about most.

Listen and Respond

Listening is an important and often overlooked aspect of communication. A good listener allows the other parties in the conversation to feel heard and valued. However, when communicating with C-level personnel, employees must go a step beyond to achieve a high level of communication. They should be prepared to answer questions, resolve concerns and address complaints.

Advocating, listening and inquiring are skills that are important at all levels, but some become more important than others as professionals move into leadership positions. As a senior level executive, it’s important to know how to ask the right questions, inquire to get more information and then present an opinion and defend it.

Stakeholder Reporting

In addition to simply presenting the facts and figures, good communication with the C-level team members includes identifying the “why” behind the reporting and how it communicates the big picture of the business. The value of hard work may become lost in a sea of numbers, even when a company is doing well. This is where communication becomes so critical. The ability to talk to executives openly and emphasize the value of what is reported is vital to the success of any professional.

Communication in Mergers and Acquisitions

Many businesses will encounter mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity at some point. When that happens, no matter the role an employee may serve on a team, strong and effective communication is vital. When an M&A doesn’t go as planned, poor communication may be to blame.

Communication may become especially challenging between executives who are aware of the M&A plan but aren’t sure they can share it with the rest of the team. At the start of the M&A process, those involved may have an idea of how the process will go. However, when any word of the transaction reaches the employees, the workplace can become a rumor mill that can churn a lot of worry, fear and anxiety.

On the other side, employees may not know how to effectively communicate with C-level professionals to get their questions answered. Effective communication and keeping all team members as informed as possible will alleviate some of the stress and maintain a calm atmosphere in the office.

High-Level Communication with C-Level Team Members

Each individual communicates differently, so understanding how one person prefers to convey and receive information can make a large difference. For example, if the executive tends to share a lot of data in their emails and conversations, coming into a conversation with data to back up a point can be beneficial.

It’s also critical to understand what is important to an executive. A message is more effective when it’s framed with this concept in mind. When communicating, a marketing team member or another employee may want to focus the talking points on the impact on the company, as that is typically what an executive will want to know.

Learn How to Build a Career with Communication

High-level communication skills are important for all employees, ranging from entry-level to C-level. Improving these skills comes with several benefits in the professional world. Effective communicators are more likely to advance in their careers and have a positive reputation with their colleagues; thus, improving overall productivity and collaboration across the organization.

Building communication skills isn’t something that can be accomplished overnight, but advanced education can make all the difference. The online Master of Communication Management (MCM) degree from USC has three focus areas that provide opportunities to apply problem-solving techniques, tools and common language through interconnected educational courses and real-life situations. Our program is designed around best practices in communication and evidence-based research.

Learn more about how an MCM online degree can help you advance your professional profile, equipping you to translate, analyze and gather information while turning ideas into strategies.

Recommended Readings

Communication Management Plans and Tools

Master of Communication Management Salary and Job Outlook

Is a Master’s in Communication Worth It?


The Balance Money, “What Is Thought Leadership?”

Business.com, “How to Handle Internal Communications During a Merger”

Center for Creative Leadership, “The Best Ways to Communicate Your Organizations Vision”

Forbes, “Two Hallmarks Of Executive Level Communication”

Harvard Business Review, “The C-Suite Skills That Matter Most

Indeed, “What Is Stakeholder Communication? (Plus Strategies)”