Simon says, “Do not react to people or problems impulsively.”
As Simon follows his rules for being sure he does today’s business today, His approach is not impulsive. First, he resists the temptation to just do something, do anything to make the person or problem go away.
• “What exactly would you like for me to do?”
• “How do you see this working out?”
• “What else have you tried before bringing this to me?”
Questions like these get more information. That is certainly true. Just as importantly, they slow things down. While Simon is listening, he mentally sorts through his options. By the time he has considered two or three, the impulse to just do something has passed and his response is at least more thoughtful than merely acting on the first thing coming to mind.
Most leaders are quick to act, quick to go with their first reactions, quick to follow their instincts. This characteristic is one of the personality elements separating the best leaders from the mediocre. The down-side of this is they are also extraordinarily reactive. Their mental and perceptual quickness can cause them to jump to wrong conclusions or act too quickly. The patience required to listen and learn can easily allude them.
Knowing this, Simon is slow to confront people and even slower to get into arguments, understanding these are normally impulsive events. He has no problem expressing his point of view and no reluctance to confront people when necessary. However, doing either without thought and clear reasons is risky and usually counterproductive.
An important benefit of Simon’s more considered approach is he has an opportunity to exactly fit his reactions to the situation or circumstance. People tend to think the issue is over-reacting. This leadership pitfall is well-known. Simon’s experience tells him, though, under-reacting is often a more significant problem. If his reaction is too intense, he can usually go back, apologize, and correct his reaction. If it is not intense enough, he may never know. He thinks he made his point but others do not think it was particularly important or he was all that serious. Getting the balance right is a continuing challenge for Simon.
Being assertive but tactful is where the balance is to be found. Simon needs to be assertive enough to avoid any misunderstanding while being tactful enough to avoid emotionally pushing people away. Here is his secret. The more important and strongly held his point, the more quietly and the more slowly he makes it. Whispering would be going too far, even though people are more likely to hear and decide it is important if you whisper. Simon runs no chance he will not be heard and understood. At the same time, he gives these little voice clues it is time to listen and learn.
Of course, Simon does not interrupt. He waits his turn to talk, especially if he wants to make an important point. He has another little strategy, though. He waits until the conversation has moved on to another topic. He then says, “Let me take us back for a minute. We were talking about X. Let me make this point clearly. (He then succinctly makes the point he had not made before.) Thanks for letting me interrupt. We were talking about. . . .” His point will now neither be missed nor forgotten.