7 Tips for Better Executive Communication

  1. Amazon writing tips
  2. Email — Write shorter emails with clearer information
  3. Team Status Reports — keep clients and organizations up to date
  4. Presentations — deliver clear messaging for the value you provided a client
  5. Conversation styles — Engage in conversations to collect information
  6. Avoiding Vagueness — Clarity of communication
  7. Re-routing questions — controlling conversations and narratives

1. AMAZON WRITING TIPS

This initial section is pulled from an Amazon Writing Tips image circulating on Linkedin. I don’t know the original source. While much of this is captured in sections 2–7, this summarizes key points nicely.

  • Due to the fact that → Because
  • Totally lacked the ability to → could not
  • We made performance much faster → We reduced service side tp90 latency from 10ms to 1ms
  • Nearly all customers → 87% of Prime members
  • Significantly better → +25 basis points
  • Yes
  • No
  • A number
  • I don’t know (and steps to follow up)

2. EMAIL COMMUNICATIONS

Always triage information when writing emails. When writing critical emails, write them in long form first, then place into the format below. Remove any emotion from your writing and focus on facts.

  1. Must know — Keep this to one or two sentences / bullets. This is the most critical information.
  2. Need to know — These should be prioritized in order of P1, P2, and P3. Then remove P3.
  3. Would like to know — Once you write this down, remove it. Don’t include anything in this area. Instead write “There are lower priority topics we can discuss if you like”. For non-execs you might include some of this, but in general it’s it’s not critical, it can probably wait.
  • First Paragraph — no more than 2 sentences. This would be the headline and critical information
  • Second paragraph — 3–7 bullets. The more bullets, the lower line length. Aim to not wrap sentences.
  • Third (final) paragraph — no more than 2–3 sentences focused on the action needed, follow up, and timelines.

3. EMAIL STATUS REPORTS

These may take many forms, from informing a team or organization, to informing a few critical stakeholders. For non-execs, status reports can be a bit longer to showcase details where needed. They may also include images if relevant.

  • 3–5 bullets organized in priority order of the most critical information
  • Place bullets in priority order
  • If one is a risk, show clear mitigation
  • Tie into key initiatives — What are the key priorities, what are you doing to deliver on those, and why does it matter?
  • Present what was accomplished or missed
  • Aim for no more than 5 key items. Format can be open depending on recipient.
  • Highlights — “I’m proud of the team for hitting our milestone 3 days early”
  • Low lights — “We missed our deadline, but expect to hit it within the next two (2) days”
  • Ensure risks have clear mitigations with owners and timelines
  • Risks without mitigations should provide a follow up timeline to provide mitigations
  • The plan for upcoming tasks and actions in the next [week / month / quarter]

4. PRESENTATIONS

As a consultant, your goal is to make your client to look good. Everything you present to the client should be about them, not about you. You are here to solve their objectives.

  • Explaining — “Let’s me explain this to you”
  • Understanding — “You need to understand this is a complex and difficult topic
  • Learning — “Let me teach you how we did this”
  • Awareness
  • Hitting objectives
  • Helping the company hit its goals
  • Success
  • The Challenge — What the client, team, or company is facing (Situation). Why has this happened (Complication). What do we want or need to help them with that they are not doing? This may also be presented as an objective or goal.
  • How we solved the challenge (minimal text — e.g. “There are 3 critical areas defined to address this challenge. Those are…”
  • Don’t address “I/we”. Address how the problems are solved.
  • The Solution — How we are solving their problems (Answer or proposed solution) — e.g. “These are the 3 activities defined to bring on additional customers to your service”
  • Appendix
  • Every detail and data point that may be asked from the initial presentation
  • Process — put it in the appendix in case questions on methodology arise. Most likely they don’t care.
  • Industry trends — if you’re presenting to an exec within that industry, they should already know these. It can appear condescending. Provocations can be fine at the right time. Rather than “trends”, show where competitors are winning and how to compete. Share what they should be concerned about.
  • Additional designs
  • “A story” — Stop trying to provide a winding story that showcases how smart your team is, get to the results
  • “So what?”
  • “What is next?”
  • “What now””
  • “Why do I care?”
  • “This means what for me?”
  • “Let me explain this to you”
  • “What I think you need to understand”
  • “This is a very complex topic, we don’t have time for everything here”

5. CONVERSATIONS

Within business, consider the objective of conversations to learn and acquire information. If helpful, watch great interviewers on television (YouTube) to better understand the techniques below. There are entire books written on this subject — what is below is meant as a quick reference.

  • Understand what they care about
  • Understand what is important
  • Get clarity on their goals
  • Balance — engage in even dialog
  • Association technique — leverage words and phrases from their responses to ask new questions
  • Self Disclosure — provide information about yourself to show openness
  • Interviewing technique — Ask questions related to broad topics their are involved in
  • Curiosity — show interest and enthusiasm in the other person
  • Smile and be friendly
  1. Superficial
  2. Fact based communication
  3. Subjective
  4. Feelings
  5. Openness and vulnerability

6. AVOID VAGUENESS IN COMMUNICATION aka Weasel Words

Leverage precision questioning techniques. Ensure clear answers for Who, What, When, Where, Why. Always be clear and concise. This also leads to better executive presence over rambling or offering vague direction.

  • When asked “Why”, start with “Because”
  • When asked “How”, start with “By”

7. RE-ROUTING AND CONTROLLING THE NARRATIVE

This is a routine I used for how many executives will handle media questions they don’t want to answer. It allows questions to be re-positioned in a way that allows the person answering to better control the outcome

  1. Situation — This is a statement that everyone can agree on, that’s non-contentious, agreeable, and objective
  2. Complication — What has changed in relationship to the situation. This can be an internal or external factor. Often times external factors work well with clients because it doesn’t place blame on them. Rather blame is assigned to another factor that is beyond their control. However this is now what needs to be solved.
  3. Implied question — The question or statement you want to answer. This leverages the complication to provide a new question.
  4. Answer — provide the answer to the question you just asked.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store