40-Day Business Leadership Peak Performance Programme Day 21: Chatter

Today is a red-letter day. Today you are going to learn a game-changing awareness tool.
I have already introduced you to a coaching client called Ron. Each week I do the coaching session at Ron’s house. Ron has been collecting problems and he has identified a problem he wants to work on: late paying customers. Late paying customers are measured in debtor days – the amount of time that elapses between the time the invoice is sent until the time it is paid. Currently – now – average debtor days are 120 days+. This means his customers don’t pay their bills on time. This puts an enormous pressure on cash flow in the business. Ron wants bills paid on time – where. Ron knows he needs to tighten up credit control but he won’t do the obvious, phone his debtors and collect the debts – how.

Ron believes that if he makes the please pay me phone call he will upset his customers so much so that they will stop being customers. So there’s the obstacle and in this case the obstacle is Ron’s faulty belief and argument for limitation.

Ron lives in a small court and when I coach at his house I park my car in the driveway behind his car. This day I arrive at Ron’s home and Ron’s car is not there so I assume he is probably taking his daughter to school.

It’s a narrow single car driveway so I think: “If I park in Ron’s driveway … when Ron arrives he will park behind me … and then at the end of the coaching session … we’ll both have to move our cars … which might be a hassle.”

So I reverse down Ron’s driveway and park up in the court.

But I notice that a large delivery van is parked in the court and they are closing their doors and I imagine that they will find it difficult to turn the truck in such a tight space with my car parked there, so I reverse the car up on to the footpath … in front of Ron’s neighbour’s house.

As I get out of the car the truck driver waves a ‘thank you’. I wave back and start walking towards Ron’s house. At that moment I see Ron drive into the court and he quickly drives into his driveway. We greet one another and go inside and start coaching.

But about an hour into the session, Ron seems flustered and he says, “Stop! Stop! I’ve got chatter. I’ve to get you to move your car off the footpath.”

“Ron, what’s wrong?”

Ron explains, “Last Saturday, my son was  doing an oil change on his car. So he could get under the car he parked the car up on the kerbing in front of the neighbour’s house. But when he removed the sump plug oil spilled out all over the footpath. The neighbour complained so much that we had to hire a pressure washer to clean it up. I’m just worried that if they see your car parked there, they will think I’ve told you to do that just to annoy them.”

Basically, he wanted to avoid a confrontation with his neighbours.

I now understood why he wanted the car moved but I asked Ron: “When did you first become aware that there was a problem with my car parked on the footpath?”

Ron said:  “As soon as I came around the corner I saw where you had parked your car. This might sound stupid but I’ve been sitting here for an hour debating if I should say something or not. I was worried you might think I was being petty, so I said nothing. But I really don’t want a fight with my neighbours. I know they are out shopping at the moment but now I am worried that they will arrive home any minute now and see your car there.”
Are you following this? It’s a crazy story about a car parked on a footpath but what has that got to do with you?

It’s like the upside down rocket. Ron sees a problem. His awareness is working perfectly and he knows how he feels about the situation. But what’s missing? Action, right? Ron isn’t responding to his awareness. Instead for the past hour he has been having this internal debate that sounds something like, “Should I or shouldn’t ask Andrew to move his car?”
We call this mind chatter or simply chatter. So what is chatter?

Chatter is that should I/shouldn’t I internal debate. It’s sometimes mistakenly called inner dialogue or self-talk. But more accurately, it’s more the binary conflict between should I or shouldn’t I?

Inner dialogue or self-talk is more a conversation. Selt-talk for example shows up as an internal neutral conversation; or a negative or positive conversation. But chatter is caused – straight up and down – by saying or doing something you shouldn’t have; or not saying or doing something you know you should have.

Do you get chatter? Some people get more chatter than others. Usually you get chatter because you are behaving incongruently. You know what to say or do but you aren’t saying or doing what needs to be said or done. Ron knows he needs to tell me to move my car … but he doesn’t. He’s debated the issue in his head for an hour – self talk; but his chatter is whether to speak up or not. It’s this very dynamic that we explore in coaching.

Where else does Ron do this? Ron knows late paying customers are creating a cash flow issue and he knows he needs to speak to those customers and collect payment … but he doesn’t. He is concerned that they will think badly of him. But the debtor day/cash flow issue is an upside down rocket. It’s already happening and already impacting his business. Mechanically, its the same dynamic as my car – do I say something or not?
Everyone gets chatter. Invariably, the chatter exists because you anticipate some negative result.

Jane has chatter about staff arriving late for work. And she knows she needs to speak to her staff about arriving late for work. But she fears that her staff won’t like her. That is powerful voodoo! It overrides her legal duty of care obligations.

Do you have chatter? What’s giving you chatter right now? Problems give you the most chatter – not because they are problems – but because you usually know how to resolve them – and don’t.

Can you also see how Ron argues for his limitations? He needs to ask me to move a car … but doesn’t. He needs to contact late-paying customers … but doesn’t. Ron could easily apply the Performance Plan to either situation. What does he need to STOP doing? START doing? And CONTINUE doing?

Over the next few days we are going to focus on shutting down your chatter. For now it’s enough to recognise that you get chatter. I work with many smart, uber qualified people who say they don’t get chatter but that is rarely true. Invariably, they have dumb-downed their chatter. They’ve silenced it through rationalisations and arguments for limitation. But the dead giveaway is they still have the problems.

Problems and chatter seem to go together. If you have problems you will most likely have chatter. Or at the very least self-talk. But chatter is usually lurking in the background, somewhere. You’re going to learn to recognise it.


Reread this story. Get clear on what chatter is and reflect if you have any chatter. And see if you can find the success tools in the story.

Listen to the podcast.


PS: I want to emphasise that this is a great tool but this is when you really need a coach to help you a) unpack an incident and b) unpack your chatter. Plus the Business Leadership Profile (BLP) gives you a predictive, crystal clear heads up on what issues will cause you chatter. Its well worth doing the BLP. Contact me if that sounds of interest.

Andrew Priestley is a qualified business leadership coach with clients worldwide. He is the author of The Money Chimp, Starting and How Money Flows Through Your Business. You can contact him through www.andrewpriestley.com

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It goes without saying that this is for information only and The Author  cannot be held responsible for any losses or damages that occur as a result of reading this material.

© 2017 Andrew Priestley/TCE Ltd

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