I saw this on LinkedIn this week and it struck me as the soul of wisdom.
In my twenties, I ran an editorial department at a publishing company and managed four or five people.
I smoked, back then.
Whenever an issue came up that needed a private chat, one of my writers would come to me or I’d go to her and it would be, “Wanna go down for a smoke?”
And we’d go down the back stairs and stand in this nice wind-protected area on Superior Street and have a five- or 10-minute talk.
Wasn’t a come-to-Jesus meeting, wasn’t a performance review, wasn’t usually a Difficult Conversation. Because it hadn’t built up to that, because we’d had lots of smoke talks leading it up to it!
The quick-smoke-break-talk was one of the most valuable tools I had as a manager, and I actually don’t know how I’d manage a team like that without it.
I’m thinking of those days as I contemplate why the shortest standard time for a phone call or a Zoom is 30 minutes?! That’s an eternity, the length of a whole sitcom, commercials included.
And it requires the structure of a feature film: a five-minute minuet of small talk, a suave easing into the subject, a building up to the key takeaway or the big ask, and a denouement, lingering for a laugh at the end, so that, Costanza-like, you can both leave on high-note.
A fifteen-minute call would leave little time for such foolishness—enough time perhaps for a wry opening crack or a quick report from the front, before getting down to business, thanking one another for taking the time, and maybe wishing the other person a good rest-of-the-day. And if you go over a little because you’re having a genuinely good yak, you both feel good about it.
Not just less time-consuming, far less emotionally and intellectually taxing!
I’m launching my book this month, and I have an excuse for keeping calls short. I’m going to work on normalizing the 15-minute call—not every time, but some of the time.
Let ya know how it goes.
P.S. Thanks for the idea, Pauleanna Reid, whoever you are. Love to get on the phone with you next time you have 15 minutes to rub together.