… of this team meeting? — Is there a decision to be made, or an action to take? If you are “updating” the rest of us on the “status” of your project, will our work or the things we must do be changed by knowing this new, updated status? Is it to bring people together to forge deeper connections as people and teammates, or is it to collect as many names on the meeting roster as defensible to elevate the apparent importance of the activity box you are checking?
… of this approval process? — Is this decision such that the business will be damaged tangibly if made incorrectly but quickly? Does the person with the approval authority have more relevant information needed to made the best decision than the person who is forced to ask for the approval? Is there even a reason or set of criteria by which approval of this decision would be withheld? Is slowing down the process somehow the purpose, or is that simply the necessary byproduct of yet another organizational CYA operation?
… of this email? — Is it to convey information quickly and conveniently, or avoid talking to people? Are you making use of a digital communication tool in this mobile, ever-connected world, or taking emotional comfort behind the digital wall of carefully chosen wording and edge-blunting emoticons? 🙂
… of this talk? — Is there something you want your audience to learn? … feel? … do? Does it even matter if they remember what you said at all? Does this activity check some expectation-meeting box somewhere? If it is simply about information delivery, are there not better mediums to use for that? If it is about changing the audience in some way, would you be changed by listening to you deliver this talk the way you always deliver your talks?
… of this jargon? — Do you rely on your acronyms, industry “terms of art,” and corporate-speak to communicate complex ideas rapidly … and are you using them with an audience for whom rapid understanding is enhanced by your jargonese? Or, is this clip-art, stock-image form or organizational speaking really about signaling who is an Insider, and who is not (as identified by either looks of confusion or easily recognizable efforts at forced apparent understanding)?
Answering these questions will help identify the myriad of ways to snatch precious time back from the jaws of Wasteful Agony, craft communications that clarify rather than confuse (or bore … or are simply ignored), and connect more closely to your people in ways you wouldn’t have guessed but will feel the effect of sure enough.
On the other hand, if you haven’t thought about these questions, let alone answered them with any rigor, your actions (meeting/process/email/talk/word choice) are just activities accomplishing little to nothing, and you are mindlessly going through the motions.
When a Leader mindlessly goes through the motions, the result is often worse than if no action had been taken at all.