Have you ever pitched your boss on something really important for your team, only for them to brush it off and tell you the idea needs more work?
Needs more work?! You spent a week preparing that slide deck, and then another day on your notes. It took you a further 2 hours just putting together the accompanying email, which you re-read, polished and tweaked until you were sure it was as clear as it could be.
And yet, ‘meh’.
It might be because you haven’t put your case in language that your boss really cares about. And by language, we mean numbers.
Chances are that there are particular metrics which your boss is accountable for, whether sales figures, output targets, campaign clicks or gross margins. The way to get their attention will almost always be to put your suggestions in that context.
So that’s the first takeaway from this piece. Are you clear what numbers your boss is accountable for and your team contributes to? If not, well there’s a task for you right there.
But it’s one thing knowing the language your boss speaks, it’s another actually being able to speak it. Do you really get why your firm obsesses over CAC/LTV/COGS/EBITDA (ooh so many exciting options), or whenever those acronyms are mentioned do you just nod professionally and hope no-one asks you to explain it.
If the answer is the latter, it’s probably worth putting some time in to get more comfortable.
In many firms, there is a general lack of education around key financial/commercial concepts for managers even though it can have some dramatic benefits. We’ve heard it described in several workplaces as a ‘superpower’.
Ok great, so your second takeaway is just ‘get better at this’?
To be honest, at this stage, it mostly is. We wanted to highlight this skillset as one you might not have thought to prioritise as a manager, but which could really help you.
We’re also aware that businesses target different metrics. What’s useful for one manager in a B2B SaaS business is not helpful for a billable consultancy model. We certainly can’t cover everything here (and your company may offer dedicated training if you ask).
Nevertheless... here’s a few resources which might help continue the conversation:
If you’d like a book to read, we’ve heard good things about Financial Intelligence: A Manager’s Guide to Knowing What the Numbers Really Mean and if you'd prefer a course, Coursera has some options which have also been recommended to us.
Essentially, don’t be overawed, just make a start. If you approach the topic with a curious mindset, and focus on the metrics that matter to your company, you'll quickly make tangible progress which you can put into practice.
If you know of any other resources like this you’ve found useful, please let us know. We’d love to add more to our library and help managers develop this skillset.
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We’ve compiled a list of questions you can ask your managers and team members to identify the challenges they face, and help you pick the right solutions.