40-Day Business Leadership Peak Performance Programme Day 22: Shutting down your chatter

Yesterday we talked about chatter. Do you get chatter? Everyone gets chatter. But do you know what chatter is now? And do you recognise your chatter?

Remember Phil’s list of problems from Day 3? This list is giving Phil chatter.

  • We are leasing a router that no one knows how to operate that’s costing us $4k per month for an idle machine.
  • People are buying personal items on their fuel cards; and not giving us the receipts.
  • The factory seems to be too far away from our key clients. We’re losing money once we make deliveries outside a 25km radius.
  • This is not a fun place to work lately. People look tired and stressed.
  • Trevor and I don’t play squash on Wednesday afternoon any more.
  • The technicians don’t meet their KPIs.
  • We’re not training the junior customer service guys each week anymore.
  • We’re too busy.
  • Staff are parking in customer car parks.
  • We stopped having work-in-progress (WIP) meetings.
  • I can never get accurate data from our accounting software i.e., back costing.
  • I haven’t had a holiday in about 13 months.
  • Kelly is still using her mobile phone in the packing room.

Let’s take the first item. Phil has lots of chatter about paying $4k per month for a machine no one knows how to operate. But should he get rid of the equipment or should he keep it? When I asked Phil what he needed to do he said: a) employ someone who can work that machine or b) sell it.

But why hasn’t either happened?

Today will only make sense if you recognise that you get chatter. It’s a good idea to revise Day 21 and have written down a couple of examples so that you better understand the examples I’ve provided.

Chatter is usually triggered by something happens that doesn’t seem or feel right, to you. You know you have chatter because it is accompanied with an internal should I/shouldn’t I conflict. You know you have chatter if the problem is resolving easily or at all. Worse you’re living with the problem.

The key to shutting down chatter is to ask yourself:

What do I need to say or do to shut my chatter down?

And: What do I need to say or do for my success?

Phil said he needed to find someone who can run the router because the reason he bought the machine was because it would improve their efficiencies and cut costs of production. So that’s what Phil needs to do for his success.

If you ask, “Why haven’t you hired someone Phil?” Phil will say something like, “Can’t afford them.” Or “I’ve been too busy.” These are arguments for limitation.

A good coach will challenge those arguments. “What needs to happen so you can afford someone?” In this case we are arguing for possibility.

I want to make an important point. When you first start shutting down chatter start with something benign. For example, the unutilised router is a big problem to solve. Phil might start with something smaller like rebooting the regular Wednesday squash game with Trevor. What does he need to say or do?

In this case, Phil rang Trevor and suggested they put the squash game back into their diaries. Say and do. Trevor of course agreed, and a week later they were back playing squash. Here’s the thing. Phil was so encouraged by that little win that he then went on to tackle a couple of more small issues on his list. Each little win gave him firsthand experience in shutting his down successfully he felt more confident and motivated to tackle some of the bigger more complex problems on his list.

Does that make sense?

How to Shut Down Your Chatter

A major component of my coaching programmes is to understand the concept of mind chatter, recognise when you have chatter and shut it down. So here’s how to shut down your chatter. There are four key steps.

  • Recognise that you have chatter.
  • Trace it back to the specific moment in time that triggered the chatter.
    In Ron’s case it was the exact moment he saw my car parked on his footpath. In John’s case it is every day he walks past an expensive piece of machinery that’s idle. NB: you are not required to trace your chatter back to some childhood trauma – that’s psychotherapy. There might be some traumatic event lurking in the background but focus on some right here right now issues. In Jane’s case, she has chatter about a junior nurse who knocked on her office door to ask about mousetraps!
  • Shut it down.
    You shut down your chatter by asking: What do I feel I need to say or do right now? You might know what to say or do straight away. Ron needed to ask me to move my car. Jane needs to ask her junior nurse to get help from her supervisor. Or you might need to explore the issue. Phil needs to explore the exit terms of his lease or consider if he can free up a staff member for training or revisit his business plan.

For now just review the three steps. In any case, your daily homework from here on in is to shut your chatter down.


Reread this again several times. Then try identify then shut your chatter down. See how you go.

PS: At this stage, for best results, it is recommended you work with a coach. The coach is able to help you unpack situations and your chatter more accurately. I worked with a helicopter school and they had a major problem with pilots smoking on the tarmac – which is illegal. This issue seems straight forward but the smoking wasn’t what was giving my client chatter.

The reason a coach is effective is because you need someone to act as a sounding board. In my experience the bigger the business the more the need for this. This is why it is ludicrous when a leader gets coaching for his or her team but not them self. In my opinion leaders need MORE coaching than the team.

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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