How to Give a Briefing that Impresses the Boss

Let’s say you have to brief the boss on the status of a project. How can you do it best? Here’s a five-step process you can use for a meeting, an email message or a stopped-in-the-hallway request for an update. This process will help you make it obvious to the boss that you’re on top of the project. You’ll also show you’re a clear and crisp communicator who values the boss’s time.

[wcm_restrict]Step 1: Give the big picture

Don’t begin by describing what you’re doing toward completion of the project. Start instead by giving a concise picture of the project’s status – a realistic one, of course. If the boss isn’t clear on the project’s purpose, describe its goal. It might be a good idea to reference a previous discussion to help the boss connect quickly. You may want to quote the boss’s own words about the project’s goals.

Step 2: Report the headlines

Net out what’s important. Resist the temptation to tell the boss every little detail to show you’re ready for all possible glitches that could delay the project. Nobody wants a data dump, especially a busy boss. Give an overview, in the context of the exact request the boss made. Describe the next step to be taken and its target date. The headlines may be all that’s wanted.

Step 3: Ask for Feedback

Ask the boss’s opinion about what you’ve reported. You might get some thoughtful advice about what to do next. Even if you don’t need an opinion, you’ll show polite deference by asking the boss’s thoughts. If you absolutely need to know what the boss thinks, on the other hand, you should ask whatever questions you have during the ‘Report the Headlines’ stage of the briefing.

Step 4: Add some critical details

Any additional information you give should relate to the headlines. After all, this is a briefing, not a tutorial. If more information is wanted, the boss will ask. If you don’t know the answer to a question, admit it and promise to get back with the data.

Your critical details can include evidence that support your solutions about the project’s status. The evidence can include facts and figures, data on the results similar projects produced, or an evaluation made by someone the boss respects.

Step 5: Be ready to answer questions

You probably can anticipate the questions the boss might ask. They’ll probably center on cost and anticipated outcomes for the project. Prepare concise answers to them. As you answer questions, keep your answers brief. Don’t get defensive if the boss’s question sounds impatient. It may be due to time pressures. Answer with assurance. It’s all right to give some background before you answer, but don’t overdo it or you’ll appear evasive.

What should you do if it’s necessary to present bad news? Don’t wait for a request for a briefing to present it. Report what’s happening as soon as you realize there’s a problem and be candid about its scope. You’ll get credit for taking the initiative and you’ll get the needed help.

Other Uses of the Process

You also can use this five-step formula for project updates with your staff or with interdisciplinary teams. Be certain the audience knows why you’re conducting the briefing. Some of the people there might not have been told its purpose. If action by the audience is called for, be certain you’re clear about what’s to be done.

It’s important that you speak with the audience’s level of expertise in mind. Nothing is more off-putting than talking down to an audience. Nothing will confuse an audience more than talking over their heads – with acronyms they may not understand or examples that aren’t in their frame of reference.

Everybody loves straight talk delivered clearly and with a respect for the listener’s time. Follow this five-step process and you’ll bring across the information that’s wanted – and demonstrate that you’re an excellent communicator.[/wcm_restrict][wcm_nonmember]

Hi there! This article is available for free. Login or register as a StrategyDriven Personal Business Advisor Self-Guided Client by:

Subscribing to the Self Guided Program - It's Free!


About the Author

Bill Rosenthal is the Chief Executive Officer of Communispond Inc., an organization that has taught business communications skills to more than 600,000 persons. Bill is responsible all aspects of the business including sales, marketing, content development, and the delivery of Communispond courses by certified faculty. Prior to joining Communispond, Bill was CEO of Digi-Block Inc., a K-12 education publisher focusing on mathematics. He also served as President of Kaplan College, a division of Kaplan Inc., the well-known test preparation company, where he developed and launched the online college that offers Associates and Bachelors degrees and certificates in Business, Information Technology, Nursing, and Law. In a previous role as President of Ziff-Davis Education (now called Element K), Bill oversaw the leading supplier of computer training products worldwide and supervised the operations of ZD University, the leading web-based computer skills site.