Seize the Moment with these Leadership Tips: Do You Know “Who’s on First?”

At one point in the classic baseball comedy routine by Bud Abbott and Lou Costello “Who’s on First?”, Costello thinks that the first baseman is named Naturally:

“Abbott: You throw the ball to first base.

Costello: Then who gets it?
Abbott: Naturally.
Costello: Naturally.
Abbott: Now you’ve got it.
Costello: I throw the ball to Naturally.
Abbott: You don’t! You throw it to Who!
Costello: Naturally.
Abbott: Well, that’s it—say it that way.
Costello: That’s what I said.
Abbott: You did not.
Costello: I said I throw the ball to Naturally.
Abbott: You don’t! You throw it to Who!

Costello: Naturally.”

Ever had one of these conversations?  I certainly have.  It’s when you walk away from a discussion or leave a meeting thinking to yourself, “I have no idea what we just talked about….”  As leaders, we are opening the door to a whole series of problems when we let this scenario play out.

The answer?  Up front, we must be in the moment.  When you find yourself drifting away, develop some tools to bring you back to the discussion at hand and rejoin it.  Here are some techniques that I’ve seen great leaders employ:

  1. Take notes on paper. I know some of you gadget folks will say you can do this on a phone or tablet, but I recommend against that technique.  Taking notes on paper signals to everyone that you are in the moment, and keeps you from wandering off and googling stuff.
  2. Ask questions right away when you don’t understand. The worst case of not doing this is when we hear acronyms and we have no clue what they mean… but we don’t want to look dumb so we just let them go.  It doesn’t take long before the whole discussion is now heading off into the sunset, and we’re lost.  You can bet there are others in the room who are lost, too, but since you’re the leader they follow your lead and don’t ask.
  3. Use the backbrief technique to confirm you heard what others have said, and ask them to do the same with you. When you repeat back what you think you heard, you’ll establish clarity that enables mutual understanding.  Ask questions, too.  Model this behavior so your leaders learn by watching you.

Pretty soon it will come naturally.  Enjoy the journey!