I like to talk. I like to hear myself talk. Admitting that was the first step to my recovery. And once I started down that path, I became even more aware of how painful it is to hear talkers talk…especially in the workplace. I’m convinced the character limits imposed by Twitter should apply to live meetings too. You can’t say anything unless you can say it in 140 characters or less. Or if you start to stray beyond 140 characters I get to blast an air horn in your face to shut you up.
I need context, yes. But your idea of context is an unabridged history mixed in with irrelevant ramblings, circuitous detours, and smug pontification. Like you feel compelled to “school me. Or like you think I’m slow on the uptake so you’re going to take your own time in getting me there. It’s fluff. It’s a waste. It’s annoying. No, it’s infuriating.
This happens mostly because you enter into live conversations completely unprepared. You treat a formally scheduled meeting with me as if we were running into each other at the pop machine. I need you to think about what you say before you blast off. I need you to:
- Have an agenda – what it is specifically we need to talk about and what it is we need to accomplish; it doesn’t need to be pretty or extensive – just a few bullet points, please
- Be willing to say “I don’t know, but I’ll find out” rather than wasting my time while you make something up
- Pay attention to my non-verbal cues: if I start to nod off, check my e-mail, pick my nose, or pound my forehead on the desk, chances are you’ve lost me
- Pay attention to my verbal cues: if I’m trying to interrupt you – trying to get a word in edgewise – then chances are I’ve heard enough and need you to move on
- Remember what it is we talked about last time, the time before that and the time before that…because I don’t need to talk about it again
- Schedule only half the time you were originally inclined to schedule – it will force you to give your message a big fat haircut
- Resist your urge to speak just so “you’re heard.” If you were ever coached to say something at every group meeting even if it means repeating something already said, your coach should be taken out back and spanked
- Start at the End of the story and then work backwards…if necessary. I’ll tell you if I need more of the story and how much more of it I need. It’s so much easier to ask for more detail than it is to suffer through too much of it.
How you comport yourself vis-à-vis my time says a lot about how you comport yourself vis-à-vis my company’s time. And right now, you’re wasting a lot of it.