Getting the Troops to Understand You! [part II]

by Pamela A. Scott,

To recap from the October blog – part 1: Glenn, CEO of a midsize engineering firm, is frustrated because he thinks he is communicating his annual state of the company message clearly, but the troops never seem to get it. What can he do?

The Challenges

When you are addressing a large, diverse group of people, you have multiple needs to meet.

  1. Some listeners/readers want a history of how we got to where we are. This is a favored approach for many engineers. So, you tell your story from a chronological standpoint. “In 2006, we were here… In 2007, we…”
  2. Upon hearing that, other folks will think, “Here we go again. Same old, same old.” And they will stop listening. These are likely the folks who want the big picture: “Where are we going in 2008? What new markets are we looking at? What new and exciting opportunities do we expect to find?” They are looking to the future and new possibilities.
  3. You have the group that wants to hear the logic behind these plans. This group can come across as challenging you and your thinking. Consider who we are talking about—engineers. They are natural problem solvers who are going to find problems even when you think you’ve taken care of all the problems. For this group, you have to enlighten them on the thinking behind your decisions.
  4. Then there are the folks who always want to know about the impact on the people.

What’s a CEO to do?

Sit back and think about your audience and your message. Start with what you want the outcomes to be from your speech or presentation. Some call this reverse engineering; I think of it as starting from the end and working backwards.

To begin your message, set the framework for what you are going to talk about. For example, “I want to take the next 20 minutes to recap where we’ve been, where we are going this year, and what we expect a couple years down the road.” I’m being very loose in my wording. You would be more specific in terms of “couple years.”

Set the tone of the message. “Last year was a mediocre year. We’re expecting similar outcomes this year. However, we are putting things in place to ensure the firm grows in the next couple of years.” Keep it simple. Be specific. But this is not the place to quote your P&L.

Then Tell Them the Story

  1. Since you have given a framework for your comments, which makes the folks in No. 2 above happy, you can go to No. 1 and give the history and financials.
  2. Tell more now about the future and expectations. Remember to convey the logic behind your decisions to keep the folks in No. 3 above at bay.
  3. Focus on the impact on your people, point No. 4 above. What opportunities do you expect? What new education can they take advantage of?
  4. You’ve heard it before: Tell them what you told them. Recap, highlighting the points you most want them to remember. Listeners and readers always remember the last point they heard before they remember anything else you said. If you want to downplay information, put it in the middle of your speech.

You as Storyteller

You are the Chief Storyteller. Take time to craft a story that conveys your message in a way that your staff can understand.

Remember: Numbers may drive the business, but people drive the numbers.®

If you found these tips from Pam Scott of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in her self-paced, downloadable courses at


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One Response to “Getting the Troops to Understand You! [part II]”

  1. Rajendra says:

    Wonderful points! The older catnddaie needs to bring a fresh mind set, an open view, awareness of what’s new, coupled with all that experience. The ability to integrate information, views things strategically, are some of what value we can add.

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