Maximize executives and board members’ leverage with three communication steps: 1) Prepare yourself and the executives or board members in advance; 2) deliver in a news-style inverted pyramid; 3) follow through.
Prepare yourself and the executives or board members in advance.
- Anticipate their perspective, priorities and preferences.
- Do your homework.
- Adjust, revise and practice.
- Provide pre-reads.
Deliver in a news-style inverted pyramid.
- Headline to set the stage.
- Executive summary up front.
- Detail what, where, when, why, who and how.
- Deliver on promises.
- Keep all informed.
- Ask for help.
Adopting a mindset of increasing executives’ leverage changes your communication from being about you to being about them and, more specifically, about increasing their impact. Keep this in mind as you think through everything else.
Prepare yourself and the executives or board members in advance
Start by anticipating their perspective, situation, understanding, assumptions, objectives, priorities, concerns, and preferences for how they receive information. Sometimes you already know these. Sometimes the executives or board members will tell you. Sometimes you need scouts and spies: scouts who have been through the drill, spies like executive assistants who see everything and are happy to share if you ask for their help in giving their bosses more leverage.
Do your homework in depth, in detail, and data/fact focused. You’re not going to share most of the detail. But you need to have it.
Adjust, revise and practice as appropriate until you believe what you’re saying and are confident in your analysis, recommendation and ability to communicate it. Executives and board members care about the message and the messenger. Your confidence in yourself and what you’re communicating will go a long way.
Give executives and board members pre-reads that tell the whole story. A couple of points here: Know that they may or may not read your pre-reads; and make sure your pre-reads are in a news-style inverted pyramid themselves.
Nemawashi with key people influencing the executives and board members. (Nemawashi is laying the foundation by talking to the people concerned, gathering support and feedback.)
Deliver in a news-style inverted pyramid
Almost all of us like to tell stories leading up to the big climax. It’s generally more enjoyable for all. But executive and board communication is about impact and leverage. The fundamental premise of a news-style inverted pyramid is to move from the most important high-level points through to more detail. Move from headline to executive summary to the main body like I did with this article.
This allows executives and board members to stay with your presentation only as long as it’s valuable. And this should make you comfortable with the executives or board members interrupting your flow at any point to engage further because you’ve already hit the most important points.
The headline sets the stage so the executives or board members know the subject and whether they should expect to learn, contribute or decide. The headline on this article should have made you expect to learn.
The executive summary should give the executives or board members all the most important points at a high level. (Why do you think it’s called an “executive” summary?) Start with the bottom line of the key learning, main request or recommended solution. Then back it up with the most important main points and rationale. Whether it’s your opening paragraph, first slide, dashboard, or anything else, it should be complete on its own.
Your main content should go into more depth, hitting, as appropriate, context (background) and then the 5 Ws and H of What, Where, When, Why, Who and How, generally in that order. Note what, where and when combine as a recommendation, why provides the rationale and who and how are critical to implementation.
Giving executives and board members leverage must extend after the communication.
Deliver on your promises. Making sure you and others do what you said you would.
Keep all the key stakeholders informed along the way so they can leverage what you do or learn and provide input as they see appropriate.
Ask for help when you need it. Succeeding gives executives and board members more leverage. Failing deleverages them. It is in their best interest to help you and your team succeed.