I made a comment to several company leaders last week that gave us a good
laugh – and a good insight.
My wife and I got into a fight a few weeks ago over …[wait for it]… whether
or not we have effective communication. (Yes, that brought huge laughs…) As is
often the case, we were both right, and there’s a lesson in our argument for
My wife thinks we have effective communication because 90-95% of the time it
works. She’s right, and we should feel good that we’ve created that.
I think we don’t have effective communication yet because the 5-10% of the
time that it doesn’t work are the most important and challenging issues. We
cover the basics well, but the really hard stuff is where a lot of the value
The reality is that those are 2 very different types of communication. For
the basics, the point is to handle things quickly and efficiently – “minimize
the administrative overhead,” which is why standard processes and tools are
helpful, and why my wife and I can do this well after 20 years together. For
the hard stuff, the point is to take the time to build a mutual understanding
of the situation, create several possible solutions, clarify what’s important,
and have a deliberate decision process – which is why having 20-year patterns
in our marriage can work against us when new issues inevitably show up, and why
it is helpful to keep trying new things and listening to experts when we take
on new issues.
The lesson for business leaders is this: most of the time, it just takes
some effort to make your business perform. If you put in place some relatively
simple management tools and processes, you’ll take care of 90-95% of what’s
happening. That’s good.
But 5-10% of the time, it’s going to be hard and complicated. If you just
focus on the 90-95% that’s being handled well, you’ll feel good on the surface,
but you’ll be limiting yourself and hurting your business in the long run.
Because there’s a lot of long-term value in those few items that are
The key is to make most of your business simple, so that you then have the
time, money, and energy to deal with the hard issues.
Handling the simple stuff with simplicity, and the complicated stuff with
sophistication, is how you get great performance from your business. (…and satisfaction
in your marriage…)
If you’d like to improve communication in your business, check out the book Crucial Conversations.