Briefing and Minimizing Surprises

… a core concept in Leadership Skills and Atlas 109

no surprisesConcept description

Briefing was defined by Richard Neustadt (reference below) as the art of informing your “client” (employer or associate as the case may be) after first informing yourself.

Neustadt said that briefing thus involves two tasks and these are not the same.

Briefing yourself is bound to be different from briefing others (to say nothing of differences among them). Moreover, both tasks involve at least three means of communication – written, oral-face-to-face, oral-telephonic – separate, or combined. These, together with their combinations, are susceptible to a wide range of variation suiting individual tastes and talents. Choosing effective variations for oneself, and for one’s client, case by case, is the heart of the art.

One of the crucial challenges in briefing is the admonition of “no surprises.” No superior or colleague likes to be surprised, especially in the presence of others, about a fact that a subordinate is aware of or an action the subordinate is undertaking. This can be particularly challenging when employees are working with their boss’s boss.


Richard Neustadt, 1971, Operational Skills, Note to Students in PP240, at, accessed 10 February 2016.

Atlas topic and subject

Working in Organizations (core topic) in Leadership Skills.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 15 February 2016.

Image: xend>pay, at, accessed 15 February