It's not rocket science, but it might come close.

In an occupation like  social media analytics, app development, or even email marketing, there's sometimes a disconnect between why you do something (which might be obvious) and how you actually go about it (which could be hard to explain).

Someone might be asking you to analyze Facebook posts, create an iPhone app, or promote a brand using email, but the steps to actually complete those tasks are not always perfectly clear to the person who is paying your salary. What do you do?

It can be a real headscratcher.

For some of us, a technical job can be a ball and chain. We're paid to write code or run analytics reports, and we know all of the steps required. To us, it is not that complicated. In some professions--say, actual rocket science, or maybe web programming--you might be in a precarious position. The company knows you are adding value, and they comprehend the basic concept--you have relatively a secure job. Yet, in every meeting and conversation with upper management, you get a lot of blank stares. It's frustrating.

I've seen how this works in social media, because I've created a few analytics reports over the years. In one case, I wanted to create a custom correlation in Microsoft Excel between social media engagement and pageview clicks. It's easy to see the value--it can show whether social media posts are working. Yet, the steps to generate this data are a little obscure--it's part Google Analytics, part social media, and part Excel. I can imagine much more complicated roles in a company create even more confusion.

One of the solutions I've come up with is called show and tell. Yes, it comes from the game you might remember from Kindergarten where kids bring in an item from home and show it to the class, and yes it works with people in upper management. A show and tell report is essentially a way of presenting information that's both easy to digest (the show) and yet provides all of the meat and background information (the tell).

Your boss or other executives might only understand the show report, something that has a lot of pie charts and summaries. It's really all about the presentation and image. Yet, you also demonstrate a deep understanding of the topic with the tell report, which provides all of the background data, the explanations, and the steps you take to do your job.

This concept works because the show report is the one your boss will understand--it's mostly the why. At the same time, he or she won't think your job is simplistic--the tell report spells everything out in great detail. Using one of these reports alone can cause problems. The show report alone doesn't have the detail; the how report is too confusing.

The principle applies in many professions. It is also twice the amount of work (sorry about that). You might decide to cut corners and just present one or the other. In fact, it's surprising how many technical workers tend to either go light and stay on the surface (in hopes that the boss will understand) or always go deep and then have to keep explaining things over and over again. A double-pronged approach ensures your boss or upper management will understand what you do and why, but if they ever want to go a level deeper, it's all there. In a social media report, it might be one document with the number of followers on the major platforms, and then an Excel file with all of the specifics. For a programmer, it might be an easy-to-follow chart that shows how an interface work, but a second report provides the details on how the app functions and why.

It works because you are engaging both sides of the brain. The show report is flashy, engaging, and easy to comprehend. The tell report is a deep dive.

As humans, we typically engage on both of those two levels. In one glance, we want to know the email marketing team is achieving great success. We might use one simple chart that shows how many people opened an email and how many people responded. The boss is too busy for more than that. There's a second level, though, that's designed for sustained attention--the deep dive. In that report, you might list all of the variables about target markets, total number of messages sent, the software you used, and analytics like how long it took people to open an email on average. One is attention-grabbing and easy to understand, one provides all of the details and background information.

Will you try using this approach with your boss? Maybe he or she is a bit clueless, maybe you've struggled to strike the right balance between engagement and understanding. If you try communicating using show and tell, drop me a line and let me know if it worked.