Sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s how you structure your recommendation.
“I feel like I’m stuck in this endless loop with my manager. I keep trying to explain to him something that needs to be changed, but he just doesn’t seem to get it,” my mentee told me over the phone one day. “I don’t know what else he wants, and even he doesn’t seem to know what additional information he wants. He just keeps asking me for more information each time we meet.”
Ever felt like that? Like you’re on a hamster wheel going around and around? Sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s how you structure your recommendation so your boss can see the logic behind your thought process.
Instead of blurting out to your boss what needs to be fixed or a telling him or her about a bunch of issues that are driving you crazy, try taking a step back and framing the situation in a structured format. Here’s what I mean.
Describe the current situation. This is where you explain the problem. Keep asking “Why?” to continue diving deeper to discover the root cause of the problem and then jot this down.
Explain the issues that are occurring. Demonstrate all the issues that are happening due to the current situation and the impact they’re having on you, the department, others in the organization, customers, revenue — whatever areas might be impacted.
Describe your recommendations. After brainstorming all possible solutions and writing them down, analyze each potential solution against the issues occurring. Determine which is the best solution and why.
Define your implementation plan. After you’ve chosen the best solution, determine how it could be implemented. Who needs to review it? Who needs to approve it? Who needs to participate? This is defining the “who, when, where and how” description. If possible, include cost estimates (people and resources) and time estimates.
Define your control plan. This is where you figure out how you’ll track, measure and manage the solution to ensure it solves the issues you’ve described.
I like to create a short PowerPoint slide presentation with one slide for each of these five categories. If I need another slide in one of the sections, that’s fine, but I try to keep the slide deck as succinct as possible.
Following this model helps me think through problems faster and easier. It also helps me organize my thought process in a methodical manner, which makes it easier for me to present to upper management.
After quickly talking through this process with my mentee, we analyzed her situation while she took notes. After our talk, she transferred the notes into a short PowerPoint presentation.
The good news? A few days later she called me back to let me know that her boss had finally approved her recommendations — and that he’d even complimented her on the well-thought-out presentation. Nice!