Complexity and jargon, while frustrating to listen to, they’re great truth-tellers! Why do I say that? I recently saw a Tweet by Sahil Bloom talking about complexity and jargon. He said, “If you can’t explain it to a 5-year-old, you don’t really understand it.”
Over the years in my career, I’ve found this idea to be true. Underperformers make things very complex. You ask them a question and receive a long-winded answer; they talk in circles, adding complexity, jargon, and big words. In the end, they say a lot of nothing.
On the other hand, I’ve found that when you ask a top performer a question, they provide a clear, direct answer. That’s what I love. Complexity and jargon frustrate me. People who don’t understand that will look at me and think, “why don’t you understand?” and I’ll respond by saying, “you’re not explaining it to me in a way I understand.” I push for simplified answers.
As a leader, when you’re explaining terms, strategies, initiatives or “the why,” and you’re rambling on with complexity and jargon, they’re not going to get it. They won’t understand, but they probably won’t tell you that. You’ll likely receive head nods and think the meeting was great even though it wasn’t. Did your team really understand the message? Did you check for understanding?
Give simple and direct answers. If you want to talk more, explain “the why” after you answer. That’s what I like to do: give a clear answer first and then explain it more after. Don’t try to explain everything all at once and expect them to understand.
Complexity and jargon are frustrating to listen to, and they expose that you don’t understand the concept you’re explaining. Use this to be a better leader or better team member. Complexity and jargon: look for it, but don’t use it.