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Brevity has its limitations
Simplifying messages is a talent that’s extremely valuable in an executive. Framing issues quickly and getting to the essence is a skill that comes more naturally to some than others. But it’s valuable and learnable, whether you’re an executive or on your first job.
Brevity, however, has its limitations. “Go, team, go” might be brief, but if that’s the direction a CEO gives the team regarding strategy, I’m fairly confident it won’t have a clue what the heck to do. Trying to run a company (or a country, for that matter) by spewing platitudes is like trying to cook gumbo with only rice.
I worked with a CEO at one point who didn’t have a clear strategy and, as a result, naively thought it was “all about the execution.” Next time you hear that often-mentioned phrase, please send them my way. Execute what?! This particular CEO, as a result of having identified no clear path forward, left weekly voicemails for thousands of employees imploring them to “drive profitable sales” without direction regarding how. Dumb! I suspect in today’s world he’d have done this on Twitter, and the result would be the same.
On the flip side, years ago I worked with a CFO who had mastered the ability to merge detailed thinking with brevity. In meetings, he would — to board members’ horror — walk in with a stack of slides (yes, this is quite a few years ago!) about a foot tall. However, he only used a few of them to illustrate the key points. The other slides were backup, and he was so well-rehearsed that there was nary a question thrown at him that he couldn’t answer with a backup slide.
Whether the message is “Go team!,” “Drive profitable sales” or pretty much anything from the current political environment, there must be some meat on the bone. These exhortations by themselves are worthless. “Rah, rah, sis, boom, bah” might work at cheerleading camp, but it doesn’t get you to the goal line.
Executives must be able to synthesize and simplify, but they also must provide a game plan with some detail.
I hope you drive some profitable sales today (with a plan).
coaches CEOs to higher levels of success. He is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000 people. Todd is the author of, Never Kick a Cow Chip On A Hot Day: Real Lessons for Real CEOs and Those Who Want To Be (Morgan James Publishing).