“I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.” – Oscar Wilde
Wilde’s clever line came via an email newsletter one morning. Chuckling and admiring how he’d fit so much into so few words, I shared it on Twitter. Several hours later it showed up in Buzz. And a few hours after that, “Mark” replied: “I don’t think I understand that quote, do you mind explaining it? Thanks!”
I looked at the quote and wondered: “What doesn’t he understand? It’s really simple!”
Explaining humor kills it. Explaining humor is tedious. Tedium in social media is pathetic. So I politely replied: “Umm, maybe read it again. If I explain it, it won’t be funny! ;-).” In the past Mark and I had exchanged a few emails, but we’d never met. Maybe he wasn’t as bright as I had thought.
A few more hours went by and then Ben commented: “There is a double meaning to ‘pass on’ which does make it confusing.”
Oh. I hadn’t noticed the double meaning.
A Pivotal Leadership Skill.
If you’re running a business, not a day goes by without a misunderstanding. In the best case, it’s insignificant like this one. In the worst case, it’ll cost you time and money. It’ll damage your reputation or relationships with your employees and customers. If you can avoid even some misunderstandings, you’ve got found money, time, and trust.
Fortunately, there’s a simple way to prevent 80% of these pricey snafus.
Distinction: What You See vs. the Judgment You Add.
Mark didn’t get the joke. That is a clear and objective fact. But there wasn’t yet any evidence that he may not be so smart.
I acted not on the clear and objective facts, but on my unjustified interpretation of the facts. Ya know what I mean?
A fact-based response would have been: “Mark didn’t get the joke. But it’s very obvious to me. I wonder why he isn’t getting it? I’ll ask him.” And to be fair, had we been face to face, or if this had been even moderately important, that’s what I would have done.
But when you’re squeezed by the pressure and stress of the workplace, (or the limitations of social media, email or sometimes even the phone) it’s easy to forget.
In a world where your leadership of people, more so than your ideas, determines how far you’ll go, invest a bit of time in mastering this simple skill. When you consistently separate the facts you observe from the meaning that you add, you’ll be regarded as an exceptional leader because this simple discipline touches every corner of your business. That’s why in many organizational interventions, I’ve found that helping people master this one simple skill can change everything.
So, how about you? Did you get it?
About The Guest Author: Dov Gordon has no patience for fluff and pontification. He teaches busy entrepreneurs only the critical 10% of management skills that make you look brilliant 90% of the time. And for only a few more days you can access – for FREE! – his video training on “How to Win Your Customers’ Hearts – by Reading Their Minds.”
It’s a reminder that we need to pay attention to our delivery mediums as well. And our bias. Are we conveying what we intend to convey?
When you send it out in written form as “I always pass on good advice.” is the neutral form. The recipient can understand it or not, catch the double-entendre or not, or even ignore it or not.
But what if you sent it as “I always PASS on good advice.”… or “I always PASS ON good advice.” ?? Then you have shown your perspective… and possibly precluded others – whether good or bad, intended or otherwise!
Same if the delivery is in person… a Mae West delivery “I always passssss [pregnant pause] on good advice.” vs Joe Isuzu “I alllllways passon good advice”
I got it!
Now if only the rest of the world . . .