Best Advice: Master Being Silly

In my career so far, I’ve been lucky enough to work with a diverse range of people. Some who were extremely intelligent and mathematically adept, others who were great presenters and speakers, others who were great managers and leaders.

There are none that I have been more lucky to have worked with however, than the ‘silly’ ones. These are people who have the confidence to ask questions that others perceive as being simple, too simple. Here’s why these simple, ‘silly’ people are among the most successful I’ve met, and how you can emulate them:

Master Silly Questions

Do you remember back in school when you didn’t understand something, but you thought you would look silly if you asked?

Do you remember when that one kid asked, and you saw half the class lean in close to hear the answer?

Most people want to ask the silly questions but are afraid to for fear of looking silly – but in real life the only silly people are the ones who don’t ask.

I’ve seen major project overrun risks be fully mitigated because someone asked an obvious question which highlighted a problem which hadn’t been noticed, and been dumbfounded after doing days of detailed preparation for a proposal, only to have the CFO ask a question so simple, yet I had been so caught up in the detail I hadn’t prepared for it.

On a personal front, how many times have you had the wrong meal served at a restaurant, where you had a gut feeling you should ask them to repeat the order but didn’t want to look silly.

Key Lesson: Don’t be afraid to ask basic questions, because most of the time everyone else is probably thinking it too! To start, take an action today to ask at least one silly questions to clarify a topic, and get in the habit of setting and receiving clearer expectations.

Executives Think Simple

Now this might seem counter intuitive if you perceive my simple comment as being derogatory, but this is the reality of each of the most impressive executives that I have ever met.

The reality is, the higher you go up in an organisation, the simpler the executives will appear to be, and the simpler you need to think and convey information.

I say ‘appear’, because one of the hardest but most important things you can do is to take a whole bunch of ideas and simplify them. Executives understand they can get a lot more across by focusing their communication.

Key Lesson: When dealing with executives, it is tempting to get overly clever. Don’t – keep your message simply and be ready for basic but difficult questions. To start, take an action today to review every long e-mail before you press send, and find a way to simplify it. Start by trying to halve it or cut it down to 5 lines, and see what a difference it can make.

With Simplicity Comes Power

Above all else, complexity is like most things in life – Anything in abundance becomes a commodity.

Don’t let ideas and people’s impression of you become a diluted commodity.

Stand out by being the one known for asking the simple yet pertinent questions, and be heard by making sure your communication is crisp and concise.

Start now, and the only ones who will look silly are those who aren’t emulating you!

Leigh Fletcher
Regional Account Manager at QAD


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