Leadership Lesson: The new think, talk, listen, act ratios

Published in the Phoenix Business Journal on October 6, 2017

Not financial ratios. We are looking at behavioral ratios that feed financial ratios. Financial ratios include gross margin, return on equity, current ratio, and more. Communications ratios include think/talk ratio, talk/listen ratio, talk/act ratio, and more. Why is this important?

Understanding the dynamics of our communications is key to improved performance and productivity. If we do not think before we talk, or listen as much as we talk, or act more than we talk, we are feeding weak financial performance.

Keep reading.

What are you thinking?

Business performance weakening. Management and employees are thinking about it. But not much else. Here is what they should be thinking about. What is important now?

  1. Review the entire business: vision, mission, values, goals, strategy, actions, results.
  2. Isolate all the weak spots via conversations, questions, and listening.
  3. Carefully think through the priorities of what needs to be done.

“You must do the things you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of the United States, 1933-1945

Engage brain before releasing tongue

From thought to tongue is a split-second. So fast that we too often say things that we do not mean. Or in a manner that we would like to retract. Add the fact that we like to talk more than listen – and speak more than taking action – and our vocal chords become more of a liability than an asset. What to do?

  1. Make a mental list of some things you want to talk about.
  2. Take a breath or two before starting to speak to consciously form your first sentence.
  3. Talk slowly so that you can continue to manage your feelings and words.

“Wise people speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.” – Plato, Greek philosopher

Shut up and listen

We are a nation of talkers. But recent Harvard University research notes that we should listen two or more times than we talk. Why? Simple. We listen much speedier than we talk. We typically listen and comprehend at 300 WPM (words per minute) while a typical speaker talks at 100 WPM. Easy listening. How?

  1. Make eye contact with whoever is talking.
  2. Indicate that you are listening by periodically nodding your head.
  3. Allow speakers to finish completely prior to you saying anything.

“If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.” – Mark Twain, author and humorist

Blah, blah, blah

Are we collectively admiring our problems? By just talking about them? We agree repeatedly that our challenges require action. Yet, we sit in endless meetings with no actions, no assignments, no responsibilities, and no due dates. Now what?

  1. Find experienced leaders who will form highly motivated and rewarded teams.
  2. Establish meaningful meetings that efficiently drive actions to completion.
  3. Stop meetings without a leader, agenda, action lists, or that last more than one hour.

“Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions.” - Harold S. Geneen, American businessman, president and CEO of ITT.

The bottom lines

Communications ratios. What are yours? Are you thinking, listening, talking, and acting in the right proportions. This is critical to building strong financial ratios. Make certain that talking is not your primary company asset. Or it will become your only asset. Soon.

Click here to read this article on the Phoenix Business Journal site.