Answering Exec Questions the Right Way

Tl;dr

  1. Answer the question directly (to the best of your ability) in 30 seconds or less.
  2. If needed, explain your answer in more detail.
  3. Understand why the executive asked you that question in the first place.

Details

  • “It’s not that low! The team is working really hard!”
  • “This other market is way up on projections; why don’t we talk about that!”
  • “Crap! I have no idea why but I don’t want to look like an idiot. Let me see what I can come up with. Or maybe I can just pass the question to someone else.”

0. Breathe

1. Answer the question (to the limits of your knowledge)

2. Explain your answer (if needed)

3. Understand why the executive asked the question

How to ask for the question behind the question

  1. Can you tell me more about why you’re interested in this data point?
  2. What would we do differently in our strategy if the answer to your question was X?
  3. (assuming we don’t know the answer) I think it will take the team about 2 weeks to answer this question, which will have some tradeoffs. How important is it to you that we understand this aspect and why?
  4. How precise of an answer do you think we need to this question? We could do a one-day of work version or a three-week version

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I'm a Product Manager who loves to solve problems at the intersection of how to help people get value out of complex ecosystems and how people make decisions.

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Chris Hatfield

Chris Hatfield

I'm a Product Manager who loves to solve problems at the intersection of how to help people get value out of complex ecosystems and how people make decisions.

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