What detail should I give to senior leaders? (Answer the questions they're silently asking.)

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What detail should I give to senior leaders?

An I.T. Director shared with me recently that they’ve been halted in meetings with senior leaders because they’re explaining too many details that don’t matter to the person they’re talking to.

And even if you’re not being actively silenced, you may be hurting your influence when your listeners find your talking points irrelevant to them.

To keep things relevant to your listener, think about the questions they’re silently asking.

For example, if you’re talking about an active outage for example, a technical peer may be asking, “What root cause hypotheses can I come up with that might explain the current known symptoms?” Details such as the timing and nature of the symptoms will be relevant. So will recounting what has been tried so far and what the results of those actions have been.

But a customer support lead will silently be asking, “How many customers are impacted? What might they have noticed already? What will they experience if the outage continues? How long do we think it will last? What options can we give them for a workaround?” They’ll likely need a different set of details, even if some of those details overlap.

If you’re talking about roadmap planning for a potential upcoming project, a technical peer will likely be asking, “What will you need from my team to get this done, and when? Which of the things that I need from your team will this project put at risk, and for how long? What changes will this project introduce that we may need to account for in the rest of our operations?”

But what might a CEO be asking?

If they’re not yet certain of the project’s value, they may be asking how this project will contribute to the company’s stated objectives and key results, how it may affect the company’s competitive or financial position. If they do already understand the project’s value, they may be asking for your degree of confidence in being able to deliver it, what kind of investment you will need from the company, or what kind of intervention you may need to overcome obstacles. They’re probably not interested in the details of why or how those obstacles get in your way. Just knowing what you need to overcome them is usually enough.

And of course, your peers, or customer service leads or CEO may be different. Capitalize on every interaction with them to learn a clearer picture of what matters to them so you can give more relevant details in every future conversation.

When you share the right details with the right people, you’ll grow your influence while you help everyone succeed.

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