Board Reporting Framework: The line manager’s real-time performance resources to keep your c-suite updated in challenging times

As a new manager, you’ve probably realised one very important thing: that you’re not only in charge of managing ‘down’ the organisational hierarchy, but also ‘up’ to the board. Without a solid board reporting framework, this creates a whole new challenge for those moving up the ranks. Throw in the fact that many executives are now working from home, and it comes as little surprise to learn that finding ways to communicate with the c-suite is now more challenging than ever. 

Research shows that c-suite executives have been one of the most well-equipped groups to be able to move their day-to-day operations from the office to the home, which means that there are now two distinct factors that need to be taken into account when communicating at board level: managing ‘up’, and successful remote work collaboration. 

This is one of the pressing leadership and management challenges to be addressed most urgently if new leaders want to get off on the right foot and prove that they have what it takes to truly succeed in leading the workforce of the future. Mistakes are more visible than ever before as a new line manager, so it really is critical for leaders to ensure they’re always sending the right message to the board, at the right time. 

Skills for board-level communications

Of course, every leader needs to develop a set of new skills to manage the board when they’re first promoted to the position. The c-suite can often be a very political game, and perhaps leaders don’t really have much experience in the diplomatic area. But what’s important to remember is that keeping the c-suite updated in challenging times is about more than just diplomacy; it’s about ensuring that leaders are using the most effective, real time performance resources and developing a strong and impactful board reporting framework that keeps everyone on the same page, boosts transparency, and minimises misunderstandings throughout the post-2020 uncertainties. 

Developing a board reporting framework

Each business - and each team - will have its own unique and individual requirements when setting up a board reporting framework that line managers can use to keep the c-suite up-to-date with the latest team developments. However, every good framework always includes three key aspects: metrics, language, and source.

1. Metrics

Unlike other established reporting areas - such as financials, for example - there are no standard or widespread processes or policies that line managers can use to determine exactly what they should be sharing with the board. What activities warrant board level attention? What areas will the board be interested in? What does the board need to know in order to make effective and efficient decisions at business level? Line managers, in many cases, make reporting metrics into a guessing game, which can result in reports that are sloppy and fail to bring value. New managers must work with their team to establish key metrics that determine at what point the board is involved.

A starting point for this is to adopt an output-based mindset and work backwards from there. What is it that the team achieved? What drove client satisfaction or operational excellence? What was the bottom-line impact?

2. Language

All good board reporting frameworks establish set protocols for communicating clearly and transparently with a board that speaks a different language to the line manager, and to the team. A 2016 survey found that the majority of executives feel that the information they receive from leaders is too technical, and a Deloitte report states that ‘reports often focus on the technical, yet CEOs and board members could benefit from - and be more engaged by - reporting and assurance that focus more on business risks and impacts’. Every team will have their own jargon that they use to communicate internally. Leaders must translate this jargon into broader terms for updating the c-suite.

3. Source

What line managers don’t often see is that the reports that are presented to the board are often siloed. They come from multiple leaders, across multiple departments, who have each determined their own metrics, and their own language for communication. This can often result in executives not gaining a full picture, impacting their ability to make the best decisions for the future of the business. A good board reporting framework aims to consolidate these silos, and present data from across a variety of sources to create context and acknowledge the bigger picture. The concept of the ‘bigger picture’ is especially important during periods of remote working. 

Utilising real time performance resources

Each of the three key aspects of a good board reporting framework - metrics, language, and source - can be addressed through the use of real time performance resources. An IBM study found that only one third of aspirational leaders - those actively striving to do better in the world of work - believe that their c-suite has the data it needs to improve the quality of decision making, highlighting just how important real time data is to the mix. 

By incorporating technology into the leadership approach, and using digital, cloud-enabled tools such as employee engagement software, mobility management platforms, and HR systems with integrated training and development tracking, line managers can ensure their c-suite always has access to the information it needs.

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