Brevity Breeds Bliss


Film: Bolt

Release Date: November 21, 2008

Scenario: After being left alone in their trailer for the weekend by his human/owner/costar Penny, Bolt is visited by the cats who play the pets of the villain on the TV show that is his reality.  That cats, who know they are actors and that Bolt believes he really is a crime-fighting superdog, find it fun to visit him from the skylight of his trailer and continue the charade in order to get a rise out of him.  When Bolt tries to give the cats a message from him to Dr. Calico (his arch-nemesis), the veteran cat (sometimes known as California but never called that in the film) tells him the message is too long, but he will do his best.

Bolt: I would super-bark you both back into the hole you crawled out of, but I need you alive, because I’ve got a little message for you to take back to your green-eyed man. You tell him his old friend Bolt said that—
California: Is it long?
Bolt: [bewildered] I-Is what long?
California: The message? Is it-is it long message? Because I have a horrible memory.
Bolt: Yeah, I’ll make it brief, alright? You tell him I said I’m gonna—
California: You know what? Why don’t we do this; [to Almond] You remember the first half of the message, and then I’ll remember the second, and then we can pass it on to the green-eyed man together.
Bolt: Oh, I don’t care how the message is translated, alright?! Just do it, okay?! You tell the green-eyed man that I will not sleep, I will not rest, until my Penny is safe from his evil clutches. You tell the green-eyed man that—-
California: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Way too many words. I was like “What?” and then I was like “Huh?” and then, uh, I got a little bored. Something about clutches? Anyway, I’ll do my best. Ciao! [jumps off the trailer]
Almond: By the way, huge fan, love it, love you, gotta go. Thank you.

Leadership Lesson: Keep communications to your team as short as possible.

We don’t like to feel that our time is being wasted, especially in the workplace.  Our teams feel the same way.  So, when we communicate with our teams, we need to try to do so in an efficient-while-still-being-effective manner.  This can take quite a bit of practice to master, as providing a large amount of information in a small amount of time can be a bigger challenge than most people realize.

Here are some tips to try and keep our communications as to-the-point as possible:
1) Don’t call a meeting for what can be just as easily communicated via email.  Sometimes a face-to-face meeting with individuals or the whole team are important for various reasons, such as the need to allow for questions/clarifications or demonstrations.  Other times, however, a simple email will get the information out more quickly and allow individuals to be updated at a convenient time for them.  It’s important to know the difference and to carefully determine which communication vehicle to use.2) Don’t call a meeting, whether for individuals or the entire team, just for the sake of having a meeting.  Many of us have a standard schedule for meeting with our teams, both individually and collectively.  If we find that we aren’t going to have anything of value to present at one of these meetings, it would be best to reach out to those involved to ask if there is anything they would like to discuss.  If everyone replies that they have nothing, cancel the appointment and give that time back to them.
3) Don’t make meetings longer than they need to be.  We as leaders can often feel pressured to prove that we give attention to each member of our team on an individual basis.  While this attention is vital to the development of the associate and shows our care and concern for them, taking them away from their assigned duties for no reason can often have the opposite effect.  The same is true for team meetings or huddles.  To avoid this, we should make sure that we always have notes prepared for what we want to discuss/accomplish during the allotted time, that we stay on task and make note of any off-topic conversations that need to be addressed at a later time, that we complete each topic or task on our list to completion, and that we end the meeting in a timely fashion once all tasks are complete and all questions/concerns are discussed.  If a meeting is scheduled to last for an hour and everything is accomplished and everyone feels well informed within the first 30 minutes, don’t search for things to discuss for the rest of the hour.  Simply end the meeting and allow everyone to return to their work.
4) Distinguish between the main point(s) being communicated and the details.  This mainly concerns written communications such as emails and memos as oral delivery requires listening to each word spoken.  Have we noticed something about this list?  The main points are in bold, while the details are not.  This allows us to either just read the main points or, if necessary, to read the finer details for more information.  This allows the reader to quickly determine the primary message, as well as to spend more time on the details at a more convenient time or skip the additional information if it does not apply to them.

We want our teams to respect us, so we need to respect them.  That includes being respectful of their time.  We may even find that our messages are more well-retained  as we become more efficient in our communications.

“Quidquid praecipies, esto brevis.  (Whatever advice you give, be brief.)”

―Horace (Roman poet)

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