In my other life, I follow a bunch of marketing, business, and other blogs. I rarely blog my thoughts from those blogs here (it’s a topical thing), but every now and then that world collides with this one or there’s something I just can’t resist talking about. Kathy Sierra spins verbs into gold with How to be better at almost anything, in which she describes how and why the guy spouting off quick answers in an authoritative voice isn’t necessarily right, and how the quiet guy in the corner who looks clueless and can’t articulate his thoughts well enough to disagree may just well have the right answer.
Guess which guy I am?
Wrong, I’m the quiet inarticulate guy in the corner. The “clueless” one. You’d never know it by the amount of verbage I spout around here, eh? If I had a nickel for every time I experienced this phenomenon…. This was a big problem for me when I sat on the leadership team for our CLB, and I’m feeling it more lately in my business now that I have three partners on the management team instead of just one.
See, I can often be sitting in any meeting watching it go off in a bad or ill-advised direction, and not have an adequate way to even begin to explain it. Sometimes everyone can be off down the track in a certain direction and there’s just so much steam that it’s hard to be the contrarian, especially if you don’t have as many words to back up what you’re saying. Sometimes I can say, “If we do that, then we’ll end up…..” which elicits the question, “How do you get that? That’s got nothing to do with it.” I might respond, “It has everything to do with it,” but generally, the conversation is about done at this point, as I often have trouble articulating some of the synapses in the right half of the grey matter. Who says there’s nothing analytical over there? If only it could talk…. and that’s what I love about Kathy’s explanation.
It’s hard to say, “Wait, guys, something’s not right” when you can’t back it up with anything concrete, yet. When this happened in the church context, it was more spiritual to say, “Wait, guys, I have a check in my spirit,” but I couldn’t always say that… in fact, I could rarely say that, because I didn’t really know what it was I seeing. In my charismatic days, this was called being “prophetic,” and perhaps there’s something to that… but at the end of the day if you can’t explain it, you need a team who really trusts that you’re onto something and aren’t quick to bowl you over for not being able to articulate it and simply run on ahead anyway. See, I can often figure out what the issue is and how the dots connect, but it can take slow quiet conversation, and it could take a week or two. I’ve learned that nobody on the planet wants to wait a week or two… but they also won’t listen without the explanation that takes a week or two to compile. So I’m screwed, with “I told you so” being an exceptionally shallow reward for it. That’s what 16 years in church leadership taught me, anyway.
Now I have Kathy to explain it to me, and I’m feeling a mixture of vindication, and that relief that comes from simply being understood — neither of which equates to being heard, but it’s a start. I’m hoping that Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking will help me out with this — that’s why I bought the book, after all… I just haven’t had time to sit down and read it yet. (Perhaps I’d be better off if I hadn’t run out of time to finish reading David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity before it had to go back to the library). I’m going to start by rereading Kathy’s post though.