The Long and Short of It is a Circle


The Long and Short of It is a Circle

We always want you to learn something from our VIM Executive Coaching blog posts and so we’d like to inform you that the phrase, “The long and short of it,” dates to around the year 1500. Before that, there are ancient biblical references that seem to have reversed the order to “the short and long of it.”

The phrase is the ancient or modern equivalent of: “Let me hurry up and get to the point whether you want to hear it or not!” Others might interpret it as, “In summary, let me say this and you’ll like it!”

Conversation stopper
The phrase, as you might imagine, is a conversation stopper. Imagine two managers are called into an executive leader’s office who are not “seeing eye to eye (another interesting phrase!).” They have asked for a meeting to help resolve the situation. 

Anyway, the two managers are passionately and respectfully stating their positions. They both make good points but the executive isn’t hearing them. He or she drums on the desk top and blurts, “The long and short of it is that the two of you had better work it out and get this product rolled out or manual written or event arranged…”

In other words, the executive has used the expression as a tool to react to his or her impatience or apathy toward finding a respectful and mutually empowering solution. The key word here is “react.” Far too many leaders and entrepreneurs reply to most any number of employee issues by reacting in a hostile, negative or even flippant manner. The ability of managers to express themselves is thwarted.

The usual outcome of applying a conversation stopper type phrase born of reaction is that one manager is favored over another, neither manager is favored, of the leader comes across as unfeeling, insensitive and disengaged. The long and short of it is that nothing is truly resolved.

Conversation empowerment
What then should the executive leader have done in the above scenario? Please understand in the first place that in the world of trying to be authentic, and a true leader, virtually every stock expression is applicable to almost no situation. Far better to say something from the heart than to blurt out something said more than 500 years ago!

For example, the executive might have said:

“You are both such valuable people to me, and I am troubled our differences have come to this. Let us listen to the situation, learn from one another and try to come up with the best solutions.”

It can even be more direct: “We will gain nothing of use if we have constant bickering and disagreements. Let’s resolve these problems here and now.”

In other words, the leader has created a circle in a sense, something more inclusive where all parties have the ability to express themselves in a respectful environment. The executive leader might still come to the same conclusions and it is possible that one or even both parties might not get what they want, but they will come away from the meeting at least feeling that they were respected.

Most workplace situations are not written like Hollywood scripts where issues are shorthand and cursory, even staged. Most workplace situations are not television “CSI” dramas or war movies where orders are barked and it’s an almost dictatorial scenario.

Reaction to most situations never accomplishes as much as an authentic response. Make no mistake about it, anyone in a meeting can readily tell the difference between an angry reaction (even if it is a Middle Ages expression) and an authentic response to a situation. While the outcome may be the same, the long and short of it may be that everyone involved will feel as though the situation was resolved within an authentic circle of inclusion.

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Leadership, MindfulnessBruce Wolk