How to Develop Teams that Talk Less and Achieve More

Talking gives the illusion of action.

If the room goes quiet when you ask, “What are we going to do about that?”, you have a team that talks too much and achieves too little.

The illusion that talking is achievement leads to:

  1. Smug superiority. You look down on the people you talk about.
  2. Self-satisfied frustration. Leadership teams that talk more than act develop frustration toward the people they should encourage and support.
  3. Self-deluded stagnation. Teams that talk – but don’t act – imagine they’re getting things done.

Teams that talk focus on the responsibility of others.

Action creates personal responsibility.

Hidden value of action:

  1. Openness to listen and learn. People who talk too much over-estimate their knowledge.
  2. Momentum. You’re stuck until you act.
  3. Clear thinking. Guesswork happens while you sit and talk. Clarity happens when you get off the stool of do-nothing.

How teams overcome inaction:

#1. Set deadlines.

Before the discussion begins, ask, “When would you like to be doing something about this agenda item?”

Make small decisions now. Procrastination invites overthinking.

Distill big decisions into a series of small action steps.

#2. Ask for action.

Before the meeting ends, ask, “Is there any reason we can’t move forward on this now?” If the answer is, “We CAN’T move forward right now.”:

  1. List and rank the top reasons you can’t move forward now.
  2. Focus on the top three concerns.
  3. Assign concerns to the people around the table. “Please return to our next meeting with three possible answers to the concern you’ve been assigned.”
  4. Schedule your next meeting soon. “If we had to, how quickly could we act on this item?”
  5. Set the tone. The purpose of our next meeting is to find small ways to move forward.

Take a small step if you can’t take a giant leap.

What prevents teams from achievement?

How might leaders develop teams with a bias toward action?

Added resources:

Bias Toward Action (Deloitte)

Beware of “Bias Toward Action” (Govloop)