A good conversation is often like a game of ping-pong — the ball goes back and forth with a steady rhythm. Speak, PAUSE, speak, PAUSE, etc… but, when you fail to pause after a thought, it’s like you just threw a basketball on the ping-pong table… and your boss is thinking:
We’ve all over-explained because when in the presence of power, we tend to babble. In the business world, this usually takes the form of unnecessary explanation of details. Details are important, but the babbling of them is an inappropriate form, usually delivered at an inappropriate time. Don’t.
Don’t explain unless asked. Think rhythm instead and be a pro! STOP, PAUSE… Keep it short and you send this unspoken message, “I trust you to ask the right questions at the right time.” If instead, you dump all you’ve got on your listener, you’re implying, “You don’t get it and I’m going to smarten you up!”
Here’s a real-life example of over-explanation. All he needed to say was “Thanks for the advice. I’ll be on top of it by the 15th!” This worthless babble is what he actually wrote:
Thanks for the advice on inetwork and the other stuff. I will need a week or two more to get on top of inetwork…..Over the last 10 days, other priorities have kept me from jumping on that…..My projects combined with assuming Isabelle’s job and WebFarmers have me overloaded right now. I think it’s fantastic that we have Isabelle focused on where the money is, and I’m extremely willing to contribute by taking on the additional work. I just ask for your patience…some of the smaller stuff is not going to get done immediately…. And, Jack, please don’t respond with your blame/responsibility shtick…..”
Consider how long it took him to write this email, instead of the short powerful email he could have written. Consider that this is typical communication, and he largely spends his days communicating messages like this, and begin to see: he could probably get ten times more done every day if he was communicating better.
This is how we make the jump from being worth $100,000 a year to creating the kind of value that is worth $1 million a year. Don’t over-explain. The efficiency of competitive sports is a useful comparison. Imagine a footballer in the World Cup, running down the field, who stops to tell his coach:
Thanks for the advice on passing the ball and the other stuff. I will need a week or two more to get on top of my kick…..Over the last 10 days, other priorities have kept me from jumping on that…..My projects combined with covering for the fullback and the new halfbacks have me overloaded right now. I think it’s fantastic that we have new attacks focused on where the goal is, and I’m extremely willing to contribute by taking on the additional work. I just ask for your patience…some of the smaller stuff is not going to get done immediately…. And, coach, please don’t respond with your blame/responsibility shtick…..
Shut up and play!
Now, for all the derision we’ve placed on the email, his email is fantastic in three ways – keep these great things separate and strive for them!
Finally, good examples of terrible behavior are so rare and precious! Thanks to this footballer for providing us such a rich topic and remember: “Perfection,” as Antoine St. Exupery wrote, ‘is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to remove.”
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