Brenda Knights Narrative

Reports are all about knowing your audience. What I put in an internal monthly report for our staff meeting isn’t what I’m sharing with our elders table or what I’m sharing with the board of directors. With the staff report, the intent is that each department knows what’s going on. So, it provides context for an operating environment. Sharing the details is important. But for the elders, that’s too much detail. The elders are our shareholders. They don’t need to know the day-to-day. They’re interested in what’s the status of new business, what new business opportunities are we pursuing. We only have a short period of time.

With the elders, we want to give them enough so they’ll feel informed and give them an opportunity to ask questions. It’s also a chance to gauge to see how they feel about an idea. I’ve had land developers approach us. At the first meeting, I might say, “We’ve been approached. We’re exploring whether or not it’s feasible.” That’s it. The next time, I’ll say, “Internally, we now believe it’s feasible. Now, we need to determine lease rates. Here are the next steps.” When it comes time to have a referendum about whether that tenant can be onsite, it’s not new to elders and it’s not taking them by surprise. They know we’ve done our due diligence. You can also gauge from previous meetings if there will be any objections. With some land developers, I’ve had concerns about their practices related to sustainability. Through these discussions, we will either address that, our we’ll see that we’re getting a lot of opposition and this is not a business we will support.

With the board of directors, their time is limited. These are highly accomplished people, and they want the facts in a very high level. They want to know financial information, the reputation of the company. Usually, there’s a verbal report that’s quick, but then we give additional handouts for them to review. If they ask a question, hopefully I’m able to say that the answer is on this page of the report, and you can read more about it there.

So, knowing who your audience is, is crucial. And so is being honest. In grant reporting, for example, they’re going to want to know if you delivered what you said you would. You don’t want to embellish the truth. That will impact you in future opportunities. It’s likely that your audience will find out. It’s okay to say that we attempted to do something, but we ran into an obstacle, and this is what we learned. Honesty is so important in reporting. Reporting is an opportunity to learn. If you apply again in the second year and the organization knows you didn’t deliver and didn’t explain it, it won’t look favourably. So, the process is about honesty and building trust.


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Business Writing For Everyone Copyright © 2021 by Arley Cruthers is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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