Less Talk, More Action: Where Do You Fall?

By January 24, 2017Leadership

action over talkPick a social channel and individuals are offering advice and commentary. Within the mix is humor, seriousness, and heartfelt life events. Turn on a cable news channel, and more talk happens. Some give the blazing glimpse of the obvious while others fill time with frivolity. More than ever, there is a lot of talking going on.

Less Talking Please

We need less talk and more action or, at least, a better balance. The talking vs. doing ratio needs to shift to more doing and less talking.

In the past week, the split between talking vs. doing was evident. The Trump presidency raises many concerns, and rightfully so with the tenor of his talking. Some people acted, like our One20 initiative to do good works on Inauguration Day and the Women’s March that brought out millions to raise their voices. On the other side, social media posts of “WTF” or “Dear Trump” or other inane statements are evident. Talk for talk sake but not for converting words into action.

What do you want to see more from our business and community leaders:  Acting upon values or talking about the obvious?

I want to see the balance shift to more acting and less talking.

Activist Leaders

We are entering an interesting political cycle, and we cannot afford just small talk or empty talking heads. We need more doing. We need to act upon the change we wish to see.

Some business leaders get this fact, and they are shifting to being corporate social activist leaders. However, many consultants and corporate executives are talking from the sidelines, and we need to begin to tune them out. Most of the talk is distracting and adding little value. Focusing on where the value resides is crucial.

We need to highlight the leaders who have the right blend of talking and acting on what is being said. The exception: Individuals talking to rallying positive, civil change or stimulating our deeper thinking on issues.

Talking vs. Acting: A Two by Two View

Two by twos clarify concepts. When comparing talking to acting, we get interesting insights. Let walk through each quadrant.

talk vs actionLow Action, Low Talk

Why are we absent from relevant conversations and actions? The likely reason may be comfort. People in this quadrant like the way things are or do not want to take the effort of change. The attitude may be “let someone else deal with it.”

The danger is a wave of negative actions happen, and we wake up too late to what has taken place. Another danger is we get stuck and go deeper into gridlock. We may begin to slide backward rather than move forward in progress.

High Talk, Low Action

Many will know this quadrant as “talking heads.” They may talk about action. However, when an opportunity to stand up and act, they disappear. Words bury the spirit to act on what is voiced.

What happens is stalemate. If everyone did this, status quo reigns. When a majority talk a lot without acting, we create more barriers to overcome. More than both impediments, the talkers are setting the example that just talking is acceptable behavior. We create a culture of complacency.

Low Talk, High Action

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” The quote circulates many social channels and various speeches. In some ways, it sums up this quadrant well. Individuals can make quicker progress, but it may be more incremental than extensive. With less talk, few conversations happen. Diversity disappears along with bigger innovations.

There are times when an individual can work quickly to complete a task. Certain times and activities require it. However, if we are trying to lead bigger shifts, we need to have big, deep, messy conversations. We need collaboration, and collaboration requires productive conversations.

High Talk, High Action

Balance between high talk and high action is necessary to make it work.

High talk is a collaborative exchange. It is communicating succinctly and with clarity. High talk is knowing when to add to the argument, add to the discussion, and add a perspective that is new or unique.

High action is culling the best ideas and ways to solve a problem and moving it in an action plan with responsibilities and metrics. It is listening to understand and working to find common ground. High action intertwines personal and team responsibility. While there is time to work alone, there also is time to work together.

Getting this right requires a solid plan and good working relationships. Without character and trust, progress will fail. Said positively:

  • Develop a practical plan to implement the change
  • Develop good working relationships
  • Lead by example with character in all interactions
  • Build trust in what you do and how you do it

Work to Facilitate Change

We know who the talkers are in our work life. They are the dominators and the do-nothings. Same in our social channels.

We know who gets the right things done in the right way. We want to be a part of their teams, initiatives, and conversations. They are the humble listeners, innovators, and doers.

Progress is necessary to advance our company and community. Both are a hand-in-hand relationship, and we need to be active in our conversations and our work.

To navigate through our current discontentment, we need leaders to balance acting with talking. We will achieve more progress and success in this model. Otherwise, words will bury us.

Skip some paragraphs in your talking. Fill the gap with listening and working more.

Ask yourself: What have I done lately to lend a hand and lead change?

 

 

 

Jon Mertz
Jon Mertz is one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business and highlighted as one of the Leaders to Watch in 2015 by the American Management Association. He also is the author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders. Jon serves as vice president of marketing at Corepoint Health. Outside of his professional life, Jon brings together a community to inspire Millennial leaders and close the gap between two generations of leaders.
Jon Mertz
Jon Mertz

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Alli Polin says:

    YES. Yesterday I was speaking to someone who said, “Trump is our President so now we have to wait and see what happens next.” Yelling at the top of our lungs about the crazy things that are happening won’t change a thing and neither will wait and see. Action will and it’s critical that it’s born from listening, understanding and change and not only run away from our current reality. We need to meaningfully shift to the future and lead the way with our values too. So much to say on this topic and you said it so well. Thank you. Here’s to waking up the activist within all of us not only for the next four years…

    Alli

    • Jon Mertz says:

      Alli,

      Thank you for your feedback, and I am encouraged by what may be the start of a trend in which leaders shift from talking a lot to having a stronger mix of action. We have a voice, but we need to use it in what we do next and how we do it.

      Thank you,

      Jon

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