“You can be definitive without being abrupt.”
A few years ago, I spoke with the founders, Max and Connor, of Lessonly to give them advice on scaling their business and moving from a broad customer focus to a narrower one. Protip: Less is more.
Max recently wrote about this conversation in his weekly advice message. You can read the post on their blog or inline below.
Years back, Conner and I spoke with Joe Colopy, the co-founder and former CEO of Bronto. We needed Joe’s help, because we were planning to shift Lessonly’s focus from training software for any need to training for sales teams and customer service teams. We knew this would be a big change for our business and we worried how disruptive it would be to our teammates.
Joe offered us this bit of wisdom:
“You can be definitive without being abrupt.“
For whatever reason, before this, Conner and I would make changes and implement them immediately. Why wait, right? The problem was, when we were too abrupt, the rest of the team experienced a lot of whiplash and upheaval.
Joe’s advice reminded us we can put some distance between our decisions and the corresponding changes.
For example, we knew the marketing team would need to shift its efforts to stop supporting deals that didn’t fit our new focus. Joe’s advice helped us ease any anxiety during this transition. We didn’t announce our decision by saying, “Effective immediately, marketing will no longer support X, Y, and Z opportunities.” Instead, we were able to say, “Sixty days from now, marketing will stop supporting X, Y, and Z opportunities. So if you need help with anything in those areas, now is the time.”
How did we know sixty days wouldn’t be too abrupt? It was the average amount of time it took for us to meet a new company and bring them aboard as a customer. This timing accommodated the salespeople’s current opportunities, without extending the timeline any longer than necessary.
There will be moments when you need to be both definitive and abrupt, like when you have an urgent problem. Joe taught us there will also be times when you can and should give time for people to wrap up their current priorities and prepare. I write this hoping you will catch yourself making a potentially disruptive decision and ask, “Can I be definitive here without being abrupt?”
We’ve applied Joe’s advice many times since, and people appreciate it. I hope it helps you too.