Formulate a Winning Argument: Simply Put, Less ACTUALLY is More
Those in supervisory roles often believe that complexity equates to intellect. Making something too simple shows a lack of intelligence. The reality is that it takes confidence to simplify. Einstein said that the “highest level of intelligence is SIMPLE.” Failure to simplify really shows a lack of confidence. We call this the Too Simple Syndrome.
Coach John Wooden often said, “The biggest mistake coaches make is they over-coach.” This is absolutely true for formulating arguments and presentations. The biggest mistake people make is trying to over-teach. Other people are not as expert as you on your subject, and they do not need to be. Avoid the Too Simple Syndrome, and show confidence in the simplicity.
A client of mine had the task of convincing some higher-ups of the need for an expensive, but necessary, software for his firm. The leaders who had to sign off on the purchase had little knowledge of the software or the process that the software would simplify. My client prepared and polished a presentation explaining the ins and outs of the software, and why it would greatly improve the efficiency and profitability of the firm.
Having been so diligent to ensure that every detail was carefully outlined and explained, my client was surprised and frustrated to find that many people asked questions and expressed doubts that were clearly covered in his presentation. He said to me, “These people just don’t listen. It’s so obvious that the firm needs this software, but they want to kill the project anyway.”
My client made the common mistake of assuming that everyone else is as expert as you on your area of expertise. It seems so obvious, but so many people grossly overestimate the level of understanding from other people. Once we become expert on a subject, it is difficult to remember what it was like to be a novice. It is incredibly common to make the mistake of trying to sway others to your argument by educating them on the complexities, thinking they will follow your logic and reach the conclusion you want. This mentality might seem to make sense, as it is beneficial for others to know that you have a deep level of understanding on a topic, but trying to bring others into too deep a level is a losing battle.
Follow these three simple rules to increase your leadership communication:
1. Identify Your “3 Most Important”
Stick to the Rule of 3. Specifically, allow yourself to cover no more than 3 major points, and the less the better. Give no more than 3 pieces of information within each of those major points. If you can not explain your argument using the Rule of 3, then you need to go to work to understand it more fully.
2. Highlight the “1 Must”
Once you have your 3 main points, clarify the 1 most important point of the three that your audience must take away from your interaction.
3. When In Doubt “Delete”
The more you say, the less believable you become. Highly successful people work on being precise with their words and their arguments.
Forcing yourself to simplify your presentation will allow you to understand it more deeply yourself.
When my client significantly simplified his presentation into the “3 Most Important” and “1 Must” and deleted all unnecessary sentences, words, and letters people jumped on board. He did the work for his audience of simplifying rather than trying to get everyone else up to his level of understanding.
It worked for him, and it will work for you as well.