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  1. Don’t leave around a floating opinion, ended by ‘in my opinion’, not leading anywhere in particular. That is just use of airtime, which is precious. If you have an opinion, express it with its consequences, the corollary, the ‘so what’. Exception: it is legitimate to say that you have a gut feeling but can’t really point your finger properly onto something, or don’t have an answer. Say so, all of the above, if it’s worth saying.
  2. Sweeping generalizations are toxic. Avoid. ‘People in France say’, is unlikely to be true. So it’s a lie. Not even ‘your company in France’. Unless you qualify it, you are creating a false impression and only boosting your ego as ‘somebody who knows about it’. When people find out that ‘People in France’ were three guys in the affiliate company, your credibility will not grow much.
  3. Avoid national-cultural references as the mother of all explanations. If Spaniards have siestas all the time, the French are very hierarchical, the Germans like power and hate ambiguity, and the Americans are happy-clappy, and this is as much as your wisdom goes, quite frankly, we don’t need your opinion.
  4. If somebody says something, and you agree, and you want to say that you agree, and it’s important that you say it, say ‘I agree’. Do not repeat exactly what that person has said, word-for- word, and end with  ‘I agree’. We are not testing you for comprehension.
  5. Don’t launch grenades starting with ‘I wonder whether’ which only serves the purpose of knowing that you wonder, but does not advance us a bit. If you wonder, it may be for a reason, and we would love to hear your own post-wonder ideas. Stop wondering and put the issue on the table.
  6. Be fluid in your conversations with your peers and colleagues in the team. Use normal language. Leave the management speak shoes at the door. We will all live longer.
  7. Aim to be the number one problem solver, not number one problem launcher and problem talker. People who always start with “we have a problem’ or ‘the problem is’, have a real problem.
  8. Make straight requests. ‘Can you help me on this?’ is a straight request. ‘Could you please do that?’ is a straight request. ‘We need to do something here’, followed by silence, is not a straight request.
  9. Try hard, very hard, to give an answer that does not start with ‘it depends’.
  10. Contribution to a team meeting is not repeating what has just been said, even if you say it better. You are not a translator, and we heard it well the first time.
  11. An honest answer is often ‘I don’t know’. An honest, disruptive and more powerful answer may be ‘I don’t know, and I don’t think you know either; let’s figure it out together’.
  12. Not everything that is long is bad. People who don’t remember 7 things, but remember 3, have a problem. It’s called bad memory. (By the way, Moses did not push back to God: ’10 commandments? 10? You must be joking! Who is going to remember 10? Can I have the top three? The net-net?’)
  13. Not all you have to say has to have the form of a list. If you create one, make sure it’s not an ugly number, such as 13 points.

 

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  1. Scott Fahlman

    Hi Leandro,

    I almost always find your comments in these posts to be wise and well-considered, but there are a few things on your list of rules that I would have a hard time agreeing to… In some cases I wasn’t sure if you were being sarcastic.

    4. If somebody says something, and you agree, and you want to say that you agree, and it’s important that you say it, say ‘I agree’. Do not repeat exactly what that person has said, word by word, and end with ‘I agree’. We are not testing you for comprehension.

    => Well, it’s not useful to parrot back EXACTLY what the person said, but it can be very useful to paraphrase what you THINK they said, and then to agree with that. If there’s some ambiguity and you just say “I agree”, that can lead to cascading misunderstandings.

    5. Don’t launch grenades starting with ‘I wonder whether’ which only serve the purpose of knowing that you wonder, but do not advance us a bit. If you wonder, it may be for a reason, and we would love to hear your own post-wonder ideas. Stop wondering and put the issue on the table.

    => “Grenades” are probably a bad idea in general, but if you want to disagree with something in a way that allows the speaker to save face and maybe see your point, phrasing the criticism as a question or suggestion — “I wonder whether” — can be a useful tool… in my opinion.

    6. Be fluid in your conversations with your peers and colleagues in the team. Speak natural language. Leave the management speak shoes at the door. We will all live longer.

    => Amen to this one.,

    7. Aim at being number one problem solver, not number one problem launching and problem talking. People who always start with “we have a problem’ or ‘the problem is’, have a real problem.

    => Hmmm.. I start with “The problem is..” a lot, though not always. Isn’t the recognition and then the characterization of a problem the first step in finding a solution?

    9. Try hard, very hard, to give an answer that does not start with ‘it depends’.

    This is the one I really object to. For any interesting question, the right answer is almost always “it depends”. One reason I find most surveys infuriating is that they don’t allow for “it depends” answers.

    Example from a fake survey I saw this week (fake because it really was a fund-raising tool): “Should we outlaw fracking (for extraction of natural gas)?” For me, it depends — if properly regulated, fracking can be a very good thing, at least until we reach the point where we can dispense with burning of fossil fuels altogether. But it is not currently well-regulated. “Should we replace the U.S. election system with something more fair?” It depends — what do you mean by “fair”?

    10. Contribution to a team meeting is not repeating what it has just been said, even if you say it better. You are not a translator, and we heard it well the first time.

    Well, again, repeating something verbatim may not be useful unless it is a noisy environment. But trying to clarify what we all just heard, but maybe understood in different ways, is often very useful. And a good translator — from confused speech to something clear to everyone — is a valuable person in any meeting.

    12. Not everything that is long is bad. People who don’t remember 7 things, but remember 3, have a problem. It’s called bad memory. (By the way, Moses did not push back to God: ’10 commandments? 10? You must be joking! Who is going to remember 10? Can I have the key top three? The net-net?’)

    => Amen. As Einstein may or may not have said, “Things should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” A corollary is that lists and explanations should be as short as possible, but no shorter.

    13. Not all you have to say has to have the form of a list. If you create one, make sure it’s not an ugly number, such as 13 points.

    Thirteen is the most beautiful number, in my opinion. But it depends… 🙂

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