Edinger’s Monthly Insights – December 2016


Explain It to Me Like We are Friends from High School

Last week I participated in The Great American Teach-In, an event where parents spend 20-30 minutes in their kids’ classrooms explaining their profession to students. I learned quickly that firefighters have the most interesting job and consultants far less. At least, that’s how my six-year-old daughter saw it.

The experience of presenting a complicated topic to an audience of kids taught me an important lesson. If you want someone to understand you, let alone take action from what you say, you may have to simplify your message. This is a struggle for many leaders because your success is a result of your innate ability to understand the complexity of your business. The best executives, however, put the in the rigor to simplify and effectively communicate that complexity. This isn’t about being simplistic or trite. Rather, it’s reducing an idea, a perspective or a viewpoint to its essence. If you want your team to execute more effectively, take a hard look at yourself as a possible cause of confusion.

When I hear that a company or business unit is struggling to execute on a growth strategy, I’ll ask a leader to share their strategy with me-without PowerPoint or spreadsheets. I’ve found that we make the most progress when I ask them to “explain it to me like we are friends from high school.” It’s then that jargon and confusing language are dropped, along with, I suspect, the pressure to make something sound more “high level” than it needs to be. It takes considerable focus and effort to simplify how you deliver your message without losing the meaning (much more than you think.) When you create precise, unequivocal, and shared understanding with your team (or “alignment” as its often labeled), your strategy can be fully embraced and implemented.

A Slice of Life Balance

Many of us will participate in the annual ritual of exchanging cards with friends and family around the holidays. It’s a fine tradition enjoyed by many.

This year, you’ll probably receive a card from a friend you’ve lost touch with or haven’t talked with in years. Let’s use some old technology and call them. If you play message tag, keep calling back until you have time to talk. Give it 20 minutes. Here’s the thing: remind yourself that this is simply a phone call to a friend you’ve not spoken with in a while. Don’t put any pressure on yourself to make it a regular occurrence or think that now you’ll have to plan a visit or a vacation together. Just allow yourself to enjoy that time to catch up with a friend, share the warmth that made you think of them, and laugh about an old story or a memory that strikes you during the conversation. I think you’ll find it’s a gift for both of you.

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