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Executive Reporting: What They Want To Know Vs. What They Need To Know
Too many executive reporting meetings are wasted on what the leadership wants to know and do. Help them get what they need instead.
If you were to ask the members of your organization’s executive team whether they feel like they are focused on strategy—the elements that are most important to your organization—during executive team meetings, many would say yes. But for far too many organizations, this just isn’t the case. The executive team may believe their meetings are productive, but the truth is, they’re more likely caught up in day-to-day operations than they are in high-level strategy concerns.
For example, the executive team of a fast-growing company might be spending all their time talking about new site locations or challenges with new construction—but neglecting conversations around hiring the right people to put in those locations or determining the right retail strategies for each.
We’ve seen too many executive teams waste the precious little time they have together talking about what they want to know, not what they actually need to know. Below, we’ve outlined the differences—and ways you can help your executive team get there.
What Executives Want To Know
- They want to know any easy-to-measure KPIs or elements that are exciting from an operational standpoint. For example, many fast-growing organizations always discuss revenue and growth; public sector companies or organizations that are struggling tend to focus on costs or recent cuts. It’s not a bad thing to want to see this information, but it doesn’t always give the full picture to your executive team. Focusing on just one measure is misleading and may cause you to miss other areas of your strategy entirely.
- They like to hone in on the highest of highs and lowest of lows, and can sometimes get stuck in those areas. For example, if a store was opened in only two weeks and everything went off without a hitch, or if a store hasn’t opened for 10 months due to an unexpected delay, your executive team may want to discuss that success or frustration. But these individual cases probably don’t have a lasting impact on your overall strategy—which means they’re better off discussed at happy hour, during lunch, or at the water cooler (if those still exist). Additionally, if there’s a project an executive is passionate about, like a new sales software implementation or an upgrade to a manufacturing line, they should only share information about it that is critical to the strategy as a whole.
- They want to give everyone equal time to speak during a meeting. Certain executives may believe this is common courtesy but the fact of the matter is, it’s not important to give everyone the same floor time during an executive meeting. For example, you may be dealing with a strategic challenge that has been going on for six months. If so, you may only have two or three executives leading the meetings during that time—those who are closest to the issue. This doesn’t mean you don’t consider everyone’s thoughts on the matter, but not everyone needs precisely the same amount of time to share in each meeting.
What Executives Need To Know
- They should be discussing the strategy as a whole. These discussions are cross-functional and should keep strategy at the center. They should include discussions of multiple objectives across multiple perspectives, and recognize contributions from those involved. These meetings should also refer to applicable measures as a way of understanding and discussing progress toward these high-level goals. In short, the meeting should hone in on anything that has a direct influence on your organization’s strategy. (This guide does a great job of talking about how to get there.)
- Executives need to come prepared. An executive meeting is the most expensive meeting you have as a company—so make the most of it! Everyone involved should be prepared so they aren’t looking at information for the first time in the meeting. You can help out with this by distributing information ahead of time so they can focus on the issues and not the data. This way, executives won’t waste their time interpreting measures or questioning charts, and can instead spend time discussing the implications of the data and action plans for whatever’s discussed.
- The leadership team needs to take responsibility for the next steps action items that arise from the meeting. You can help by capturing these next steps in writing, finding out who’s responsible for executing on them, assigning those tasks out, and setting deadlines. Additionally, we recommend you follow up with those you’ve assigned out to and ensure they’ve done the work so you can eventually report back on results.
Are your executive reporting meetings as valuable as they could be?
To find out, we recommend you share with executives the purpose of executive meetings—to work together to solve strategic challenges in your organization—and then ask specific questions about the value of your current meetings. You could ask:
- Do you feel as though these meetings emphasize our organization’s strategy?
- Are these meetings covering certain elements (or all) of our strategy appropriately?
- Do you feel as though the right people contribute during these meetings?
Once you hear some feedback on these questions, you’ll be able to gain key insights into how the executive reporting meetings should change. Once the executives are on board with certain changes, it may be a good idea to step in and facilitate the first few meetings (to help executives inclined to talk about their pet projects, for example, break the habit).
If you’d like additional information on how to manage the executive reporting process, download this free reporting guide. In it, you’ll find all the details of a comprehensive executive reporting process, detailed tips to help you create your own executive reporting guide, and more. Download it today!