Put the bottom line up front to be a great communicator.
When most people communicate or have an update to share at work, either in an email or with a verbal report, they love to share their entire intellectual journey. They tend to start at the beginning, and then explain everything they did to get to the end results – which they save as their big conclusions.
While that kind of approach might work if you’re writing a novel, it’s not effective when it comes to sharing updates in business; especially with busy executives.
So the next time you have an update or news to share at work, take a different approach: bottom line up front or BLUFF.
What does this mean?
Instead of waiting until the end to share the key news you have, share the bottom line up front (BLUFF): cut right to the chase. Then, you can offer to explain how that result came about if the other party is interested.
You’d be surprised that when you just give the bottom line first, how often people will just say; that sounds good to me and you can move on. The result is that you just spent five minutes sharing the update rather than 20 minutes; saving you both an extra 15 minutes. Imagine 15 minutes times 2 times a thousand times a year – that is a ton of time.
Think about it like when you read the news: good journalists are taught to give you the most important information in the first paragraph or two of the story. Then, if you want to know more detail, you can continue reading. There are times when even the headline is enough information to digest before moving on. The point is to get to, well, get to the point as quickly as you can.
I remember one business I was involved in where a young executive had negotiated a better price from a supplier. He was asked to update the senior leaders in the organization on the change. But when he got up to do his presentation, he started at the beginning; explaining step by step, with the help of 10 pages of graphs and spreadsheets, how he conducted his negotiations and every single price improvement over a 9 month negotiation. Finally, 20 minutes later, he got to the punch line, which was the new price – but by then – he had lost his audience.
Clearly this young exec took this approach because he wanted to get credit for all the hard work he did. But he would have been much better served if he had started with the key information: the old price was X and the new price is Y. Please let me know if you have any questions.
If he had taken that approach, the senior execs would have applauded and moved on. As a leader, I have tried to teach many of the people who have reported to me the value of getting right to the point.
And while some of them have expressed concern that they might not get credit for their hard work, it’s important to recognize that most senior leaders understand how hard it can be to achieve an objective or goal. But they also might not really care how you get to the result. Whether you spent 80 hours working that week; or played golf every day; most leaders are much more interested in whether you got the results you needed to.
So, when it comes to communicating well at work in verbal communications, emails, reports, texts, presentations and the rest, think BLUFF: bottom line up front. If you can do that, you’ll be surprised at how people will applaud you for great communication skills; and for saving them some time as well.