Sunday, October 21, 2012

More awesome advice from a mentor

How to Brief a Senior Officer 

The first step is giving the boss the big picture. In a couple of sentences, try to outline the basics of the situation and the problem you seek to solve or the creative idea you are pushing.

Next, offer an assessment that lays out the key facts the decision-maker needs. Put yourself in the shoes of the decision maker and tailor the background info to what he or she doesn't already know. You'll need to state your assumptions up front as well.

Third step – and the key, of course – is articulating what you propose. Make this simple, creative, and sensible. Think through and discuss second order effects. Mention how your idea will play with the ‘customers' the boss reports to as appropriate. Address the challenges – especially the resources required -- in a realistic way.

Be honest and clear-eyed, not an impassioned advocate for a pet theory or project. Give both sides of the argument and anticipate objections. You need to be able to walk through the plan in such a way as to make it understandable.

Never read from a slide or a text. The decision maker doesn't need you for that. 

Be confident, relaxed, and don't be afraid to use a little humor as appropriate.

Realize that you will probably be asked questions you don't know the answer to, and the only answer is "I don't know, but I'll find out and get back to you with the information.” Focus on outcomes.

And speak up, with good posture – as always, what we learn early in life stands us in good stead later. All of this is a skill at which you can improve with practice and observation.

If you are able, watch others as they brief senior leaders and watch the interaction. What was well received? What was poorly conveyed? What would make it better? These are "free” practice sessions for you—someone else did all the work!

Above all, be honest and work hard to convey the information—the brief is about the info, not about you. The odds are good that you'll know more than anyone else in the room about the subject. Sharing that expertise in a brief, concise, and sensible way is the goal. Good luck!

ADM James Stavridis

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