How Leaders Dilute Their Impact
Brevity increases impact. The Gettysburg address had 267 words, give or take a couple. 50 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke for about 16 minutes. Who doesn’t remember, “I have a dream.”
Managing requires more talking than leading. Technicalities and execution require more words than disruption, encouragement, guidance, and inspiration.
Verbosity isn’t leadership.
The longer you talk the less you lead.
Sadly, people with power usually talk longer than those without. Even worse, we determine whose powerful by the frequency and duration others open their mouths. But, we have it backwards.
“I go to meetings, but I’m not allowed to speak.” (Spoken by a mid-level.) Leaders who do all the talking are power hungry fools. I’m hesitant to soften the blow of that last sentence, but, if it helps, I’m a talker.
Talkers are controllers.
The longer you talk the more you’re trying to control.
Leadership is releasing. One reason you’re frantic and stressed is you’re controlling.
Who is motivated by feeling controlled? “Let my people go.”
In the spirit of brief and short, the seven best four-letter words for leaders:
- Hear. Listening is the first step in influence. Speaking before hearing produces resistance.
- Help. You exist to help your team succeed. Period.
- Rely. Create environments where others step up and trust them to rise.
- Hope. Negativity destroys positive impact. Leadership requires optimism. Hope is belief based on past performance and current effort that change is possible.
- Stop. Starting something new without stopping something old eventually destroys impact.
- Brag. Applaud the success of others. Go crazy when people are doing what’s right.
- Show. Demonstrate the behaviors you expect from others.
Today’s leadership challenge is brevity. Use small words and short sentences. Speak briefly.
How can leaders learn to be brief?
What useful four letter words should be added to the list?
Thanks to the Leadership Freak Facebook participants for suggesting great four letter words.
I would add “Look” occasionally look onto the faces (and hearts) PDF those you are speaking to. Are they paying attention, or does their body language tell you that they are off somewhere else mentally.
Sometimes the best way to demonstrate someone’s ineffectual verbosity to them is to record it and have them critique themselves. This helps on a few different levels but importantly it is the voice they are most likely to hear their own.
I agree with you, your words complete this whole message.
God bless Kymee
Great add. Nothing like gentle eye contact to let others know they matter.
Great post Dan
I have work to do!!!
How about STOP-
I’ll stop talking now!..
Since u had STOP
How about WAIT
Like this. Don’t be afraid to delay a action. Leaders don’t always know what to do right away.
talk less, reflect more.
Much appreciate the extension of talk less to include reflection… powerful
Guilty , Yikes I am wordy!!!
what can I say I am the most interesting person in the world!!!!
Why say in 10 words what I can expound and bloviated with 10,000 and admire my brilliance even more I always say!!! Ok never said that before but will from now on!!!!
Hey to me I am and hope u are to you too!!!!
My four letter word is listen!!! And the other one watch!!! And do both for my trifecta…..NOW!!!
Hey I said worlds most interesting not BrIgHtEsT!!!! Hehe
SP back to my present!!!
Bonus know u luv bonuses Dan. Four letter word. STOP…..taking yourself so seriously!!!! Good day!!!
I’m not that good at math.
On brevity and impact. It’s not unusual for me to not read lengthy comments. I just skim them. Perhaps my attention span is even shorter than yours.
For me Dan it books down to respect and my wishes.
I try to give what I expect. So if someone takes the time
to write something since I would like them to read whatever I write I read every word.
Plus if a pig searches around in the slop long enough eventually he/she will find an acorn.
So for respect reasons and the opportunity to learn something I might otherwise miss and act like I HOPE others will, no skimming allowed over here.
Commitment doing the thing, being the person I said I was gonna be long after the feeling when I had when i first said it has left me.
Not how I start it is do I keep going when it feels uncomfortable to do so.
I want others to keep their commitments and word so I am bound my honor to keep mine.
What in the end do I really have but my word?
Have a good one!!
SP back to my present
Great post!! I would add “Real”. Leaders need to be real, authentic, with those they lead. No one wants to work for someone who is a phony, fake, not appropriately transparent.
Dang! I forgot that great word. Great add.
Feel – as in empathy, not sympathy. Monitor (feel) the pulse of your team. Feel euphoric with your team’s success!
Another wonderful add.
Monitor your feelings but as you indicate, monitor the teams emotional state… The ability to empathize and still move forward is a powerful leadership trait.
In the military, brevity is vital. You give short crisp commands. You have acronyms for everything. You need to keep things as simple and concise as possible during the mission. The beautiful thing is that everyone in the military understands this and expects this type of communication. I’ve noticed in the corporate world, emails and messages are way too long as the leaders try to explain every detail. They want to make sure they don’t miss a thing but end up missing it all as people either tune out or only read the first 2 sentences. People are smarter than you think. Keep it short and concise. Allow time for Q&A and “let the people go”. Great post.
Your comment reflects my experience with emails, etc. That last little bit of advice is profound. “Allow time for Q&A.”
Perhaps if people don’t have questions we said too much. Also, I think we view questions as a failure at communicating…but if we choose to communicate concisely we should also develop a culture that accepts, invites, and responds to questions.
Thought provoking…thanks again
I go back and forth with this concept. I think it is important not to confuse talking and micro managing with good communication.
I can use fewer examples and I can not repeat myself so much, I do think it is important we make sure we share the parameters of the project and we share our experiences.
Past experiences can be helpful when team members work on new projects and have to make their own decisions. Self discovery is important, but individuals should not have to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes individuals just need to modify the wheel with their own new and innovative twist.
Perhaps, if we separate the managers hat from the leaders hat the back and forth ends.
Managers talk more because they must explain things. Leaders don’t need to talk as long but need to repeat more.
Often less is more except when it comes to celebrating or recognizing success/progress. I agree with a previous comment that you also have to be aware of the audience and how you’re being received and/or if they understand.
I wonder if, when we see confused looks, we should talk less and listen more. Invite questions, for example. Sometimes more talking only makes things more confusing.
I’m still thinking that when we are managing we need to talk more..explain technicalities for example.
View. While actively listening, try to view things from the person’s perspective to better understand what is shared and provide better help. I am more open when I try my best to put myself in the person’s shoes. I engage and learn more. I let go easier.
As always, I enjoyed the post.
One of the best posts I’ve read in a long time. You hit it on the nail!
I will add “calm” to the list of 4 letter words…
I’m adding “Give”.
Leaders must give time and energy to coach, connect and develop people. There’s no point in doing it all ourselves.
As for being brief. I work hard at stating my idea or opinion in 10 words our less. While I may not do that every time, it forces me to be efficient and effective with words.
Good post. Thanks.
Talking is the antithesis of involvement. Talking so much that it stifles individual participation does not lead to motivation, although it might improve clarity. Might…
It is necessary that leaders share the vision, goals and expectations. But, like most things, some balance is required to achieve and accomplish.
Good list of 7 4’s.
I share a list of the 8 3’s, the key things that a leader needs to do.
ALL of them are, “ASK.”
(the corollary is that the leader then needs to do the four LISTEN actions to make anything work.)
Your characterization of leaders who do all the talking as “power hungry fools” reminds me of my absolute favorite saying of all time — which are truly words to live by as far as I’m concerned: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” These are words from one of our greatest leaders, Abraham Lincoln. I feel strongly enough about the wisdom in this saying, that I share it with every new member of my team.
While it’s not a 4-letter word, LEARN fits well in this situation. Leaders will be amazed at how much they can LEARN if they just keep quiet long enough.
Dan, This is such a great truth. When I read your phrase “Talkers are controllers. The longer you talk, the more you’re trying to control.” I said a deep “ouch!” Guilty — but recovering.
Thanks for the value you add to our lives!
I would like to add ‘dare’ while thinking differently and acting with courage.There are more words like ‘rise’; ‘care’; ‘pull’; ‘push’; ‘wise’; ‘zeal’ and last but not the least ‘fast’.
Leadership is about changing the fate of people around you with renewed energy and positive steps taking their support & help.
I like “feel” even though it’s not popular from a man’s perspective. Sometimes we respond or lead with our brain and not our heart. That disconnect influences relationships which is what leadership ultimately boils down to, right?
Love this post, Dan! Speaking straight to a weakness of mine. When I began to see this played out by others, I recognized it immediately in myself. I’m working on shutting up and GROWING my influence rather than expending it.
Know….you don’t know anything until you take a leap and try to implement. A program, teacher, administrator or student won’t advance without knowing from doing.
I’ve always liked the phrase of Malcolm X in this regard, “We want to talk right down to earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand.”
Reblogged this on NoblemanStands and commented:
Mr. Rockwell…how you are able to post great quality content EVERY DAY, I do not understand. Enjoy, everyone….
I’m putting more in my cup than I pour out. I’m learning more than I share. Plus, over the years, I’ve made a ton of mistakes.
I was just talking to a friend about the same thing but in a sales call. Sales people tend to talk to much instead of listen to what the customers want……great article!
Dan it appears you have learned from your mistakes. I’d like to add “grow” to the list. Growing yourself and encouraging others to do the same.
Fabulous post. I would add:
Prop (similar to brag) prop up your teamates both in the words you use to describe their accomplishments and in the opportunities you enable them to assume leadership roles of their own.
Calm – Be a source of calm to help reduce anxiety in order to assist your teamates move from onslaught to problem solving.
And my personal favorite
Fear – Be a fear breaker. Create an environment where failure is embraced as a part of deep learning and reflection.