Know Your Staff! Four Briefing Styles

The Voice for Insightful Leadership with Shelley Row, P.E.

Posts tagged "management"

Think about your first management position.  What was initially on your mind?  For most of us, we dove into the technical work. What are the projects? Are they on time and on budget? What are the technical challenges? What is the financial picture for each?

For sure, you need to learn all of that, but learning your staff is also of utmost importance. You need to know who gets work done and how they do it so that you can match skills with organizational needs. This process can take months or years and you don’t have that kind of time.  Here is a trick that short cuts the process so that you get a sense of their skills right away.

Ask for a briefing on his or her project and don’t say how to do it. Then, pay attention to the approach. You may observe that they fall into one of these four superpowers.

  • Big picture thinkers. Big picture thinkers will begin the briefing by setting the context and describing the project goals. They may lay out a project strategy that flows from the goals. Your big picture thinkers are your strategists. They’ll know the goals and keep their eye on the ball. This keeps you and others from going off on tangents. They are less likely to be lost in the details and they will ask the tough questions.
  • Tactical executioners. Tactical executioners will tell you about the activities that are underway – who’s doing what and when it’s due. It’s all about getting the actions completed. I had a staff person with this talent. She prided herself on diligently tracking every task and its completion. She could tell me the status of everything. If you have complex projects to manage, you need someone with this superpower. They will be on it!
  • Analytical analyzers. Analytical analyzers will provide data, charts and graphs. Their presentation will be grounded in data and facts. You need to know the people on your staff with this superpower. In management positions, you must frequently make decisions before you have all the data. Go to the analytical analyzers to find out the data that is available and hear the data that they wish they had. You can decide if the risk it too great without all the data. Analytical analyzers will keep you honest and fact-based. There will be no fake news from them!
  • Politically savvy. The politically savvy staff member will talk about the individuals who are essential to project success or who are actively involved in the project. They understand that relationships play a big role in project success. If you are in management, you need to know the politically savvy people. You need them and you need to learn from them (if this isn’t your superpower). They are networked into the organization. They know everyone and everything. My chief of staff was like this. She knew how to get things done by leveraging her relationships with others. This skill was invaluable. Find them on your staff and cultivate their superpower.

The briefing style you observe tells you as much about them as it does about the project. Their approach will point to their preferred work style and their superpower. Use this trick and you’ll learn about the project and about your staff.

To be a savvy manager, you need to know both.

If you want even more, re-read my blog about “Who’s Here.”



It started by mistake. As I pondered the topic for this newsletter, I picked up the kaleidoscope on my desk. It sits there to remind me to always see other perspectives. By mistake, I stared through the wrong end. Have you ever looked at the back end of a kaleidoscope? There is no swirl of color or dynamic image. Instead, you only see small fragments of colored bits.

The magic happens when those colored bits spin together into intricate designs. That’s when I realized that it’s the same for an insightful leader.  The colored bits are like their fundamental skills that swirl together to create deeper insights just as the kaleidoscope creates amazing images.

It’s those deeper insights that increase effectiveness and impact.

What then are the fundamental skills of an insightful leader? At the core, insightful leaders appreciate that leadership takes more than just data – it requires objective thinking and an appreciation of feelings – theirs and others. These leaders understand that they need basic skills to manage themselves and to understand other people – whether directing, inspiring, motivating or coaching. It’s not about being agreeable. It’s about being insightful.

After considering all that I learned through experience and through interviews with executives, here is a list of fundamental insightful leadership skills.

Try this Insightful Leader Quiz to assess your fundamental insight skills.

⧠      You understand the need to both think and feel at work.

⧠      You know your values.

⧠      You know and manage your biases.

⧠      You know and use your natural skills effectively.

⧠      You recognize when your natural skills get in the way.

⧠      You manage your blind spots.

⧠      You appreciate the value and limitations of data.

⧠      You listen for and manage both facts and feelings with others.

⧠      You wisely use email, phone or face to face communications

⧠      You know and manage your personal brand.

⧠      You use stories and visual language to connect with an audience.

⧠      You are aware of and manage triggering events for yourself and others.

⧠      You recognize and resolve your stuck stories.

⧠      You know when to decide and when to sleep on a big decision.

How did you do?  Are you comfortable that you have deep skill in a third, a half or more?

Perhaps this quiz struck you as overly introspective and self-focused. We’re more accustomed to thinking of leadership as vision setting, providing direction, establishing tone, managing change, influencing and motivating – all of which are outwardly focused. For sure, those are results of leadership like the beautiful, intricate images inside the kaleidoscope.  But, as with the kaleidoscope, you can’t achieve good leadership without fundamental skills (like the little bits inside the kaleidoscope). It’s the fundamental skills that you swirl together to create insightful leadership.

What fundamental skills do you most need to develop to be an insightful leader? Let me know and I’ll write more about these in future blogs.