Shut-Up and Do It Yourself

I was explaining how to do something when a close friend said, “Do it yourself.”

I have a love-hate relationship with my life-long friend Tim. (Mostly love.) But, he got me thinking about organizations and teams that are burdened with “geniuses” who talk too much and do too little.

Years ago, I taught computer classes. Students listened with confidence until I said, “OK, you do it.” When it comes time to take action, confidence wilts to confusion and doubt.

You-do-it moments, separate the talkers from the doers.

Talking feels like knowing

Image source

Talkers, who sit on the sidelines, are clouds without water and lights without heat.

Moving your mouth feels important, until it’s time to put feet to your words.

Empty talkers:

  1. Explain why things aren’t working.
  2. Tell how to do it, when they haven’t done it.
  3. Feel impatient slow progress, even though their hands are clean.
  4. Enjoy the safety of the sidelines.

There are those who talk. Then there are those who actually get things done.

Tell talkers to shut-up and do it themselves.

Talking makes sense when:

  1. You have experience. Eloquence isn’t experience.
  2. You’re getting your hands dirty in the process.
  3. It’s more useful for others to do it and you to explain it. They need experience.
  4. Your affirmations restore energy and confidence. “You’re doing great.”
  5. Correction prevents costly mistakes.

Don’t allow talkers to talk too much and do too little.

Effective leaders talk to:

  1. Explore and learn.
  2. Clarify.
  3. Establish direction.
  4. Enable action.
  5. Align energy.
  6. Confront confusion.
  7. Address issues others fear discussing.
  8. Affirm effort, progress and success.


Leaders who dominate conversations build disengaged, dis-empowered teams. When it comes to talking, less is more.

When should leaders just stop talking?

When are the best times to talk?

After publication update. My friend just sent me a text saying, “I didn’t say ‘do it yourself,’ I said, ‘Just do it.” — I prefer the snarkiness of my version. 🙂