Why Less is More

Less is More is not just a credo that I try very hard to live my life by, but also one that is applicable in a wide variety of places and situations. Recently Keith Jackson, one of the greatest college football announcers of all-time, was asked what he thought of the people announcing the game of football today. He gave a simple answer: “They talk too damn much.” Jackson said this before adding “You wear the audience out.”

While I am in agreement with Mr. Jackson’s assessment, I would like to point out a couple of other problems related to talking too much. The more you say, the greater the chance that you lose and/or confuse your audience. Generally speaking the more you say, the higher the likelihood that you will be personally rejected or thought of as a fool. Stick to your objective, be as concise as possible, and you will minimize potential pitfalls.

I’m not just talking about broadcasters here. This same advice applies to personal relations, business relations, and virtually any other aspect of your life that involves communication. I have worked with clients who have been oblivious to the fact that their vociferousness was costing them a good deal of money at the bargaining table. Many of them thought that the more they said, the better the chance they had of getting what they wanted in their negotiations, when in fact more often than not, it did just the opposite by exposing their vulnerabilities.

Another overlooked area of our lives where Less is More that is routinely overlooked is in our workplaces. I imagine a majority of the people reading this have to account for the hours they put in at their jobs. This generally zaps the motivation of most workers and subconsciously forces them into a mindset of “doing their time,” versus a more productive mindset of achievement. The rare company that bases compensation on the quality of the work individuals produce, versus time-served, almost always is considerably more productive and profitable.

I don’t recall people ever complaining to me that they didn’t have enough meetings at their workplace or that they wished there were more meetings. Think about what percentage of meetings you have been in that got in the way of you being as productive as you could be. Now think about the percentage of meetings you have been in that enabled you to be more productive. I’m betting for a majority of you (if not all) the former number is bigger.

One of the worst practices I have seen in business across all fields (that unfortunately, is the rule rather than the exception) is to set up meetings based on time rather than objective. Meetings usually drag on because people love to hear the sound of their own voice. If you set up a meeting for 1-4pm you can be relatively sure that it will last at least until 4pm. If instead you have a meeting to solve x, everyone will be motivated because as soon as x is solved, everyone will be free to get back to what they would rather be working on. In most cases it will also be a much shorter meeting.

I want to mention one additional aspect as it applies to meetings. Part of the recent arms-race in college football facilities has fallen into the same trap that corporate board rooms have suffered through for years: The building of stately and lush meeting rooms. Meetings are generally used to come up with solutions, directives, or to build a consensus so people can get on with the real work. The last thing I want anyone to be in a meeting that I am conducting is comfortable! One thing I have found is that the less comfortable people are in the meeting room (within reason), the faster and more effective the meetings are. Even if the meeting takes place in a lush boardroom, I have a few tactics that I use with clients to increase the discomfort level.

I could write about a multitude of other situations where Less is More (and I probably will eventually), but if I go on much longer here, I will end up proving my point in an unintended way.

As the maxim says “Don’t use a lot where a little will do.”


You can follow Sam on Twitter @SuperTaoInc

The preceding article originally appeared as a guest column on January 3, 2014 here: http://coachgeorgeraveling.com/why-less-is-more/

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