Leadership Caffeine™: A Note for the Boss Who Talks Too Much

image of a coffee cupIf aliens were to secretly visit our planet to observe our advanced leadership and management techniques, they might reasonably conclude that the “right to talk” in most situations, was reserved for the individual in charge.

Play leadership anthropologist in your own organization and chances are you’ll find a good number of these en-titled characters who are compelled to consume every possible molecule of oxygen and every moment of air-time to share their self-defined pearls of wisdom and precious nuggets of managerial and inspirational gold.

Much like that last sentence, the word count of these overly talkative leaders quickly spirals out of control similar to the runaway reaction in a Lithium-Ion battery (sorry Boeing) leaving people desperate to pull the escape hatch and sprint or slide for better air.

If you happen to work for someone who clearly consumes verbal diuretics and suffers an excessive outflow of spoken waste, consider “sharing” the guidance below. While I would never advocate sending this from your co-worker’s computer, unless you really don’t like her, consider printing it, clipping the letter below and casually taping it to the boss’s computer screen. Wear gloves.

A Letter to Our Overly Talkative Boss:

Dear Boss,

You talk too much, say too little and you don’t listen at all

Just for today, please shut-up and listen harder to what we have to say. You might hear some good ideas.

Quit trying to prove that you’re smarter than everyone in the room. It’s not a contest. You’re in charge. We get it.

Ask us questions instead of barking commands. You would be surprised at our thoughtfulness on supporting this business.

Ask us our opinions. Yes, we all have them, but given your communication style, it’s unlikely that you’ve heard our views on problems or opportunities.  And by the way, asking our opinions is a sign of respect.

Show us that you’re interested in our opinions and ideas by asking more questions.

Recognize that my pause before answering your question doesn’t require you to fill it with the words you want to hear from me. I’m collecting my thoughts.

Use your ears and mouth in direct proportion. (That’s 2:1).


Your Speech and Oxygen Deprived Team Members.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Seriously, shut-up and listen. Ask questions and listen. And then do something with what you heard. You’ll love the results.

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By | 2016-10-22T17:11:22+00:00 April 29th, 2013|Leadership, Leadership Caffeine|8 Comments

About the Author:

Art Petty is a coach, speaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. When he is not speaking, Art serves senior executives, business owners and high potential professionals as a coach and strategy advisor. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.


  1. Jennifer V. Miller April 29, 2013 at 2:59 pm - Reply


    You crack me up! “Verbal diruretics” indeed.

    Here’s a story that offers insight into ONE possible explanation for excessive verbal discourse (beyond the diuretic medication). I once encountered a recently promoted Vice President. This person’s team noticed a significant amount of “outbound” speaking on this VP’s part, especially in meetings where the whole staff was present. Finally, one team member asked the VP privately – “I notice that you seem rushed trying to get all of the information ‘out’ to the troops. Are you concerned you’re going to forget something?”

    “Yes!” replied the V.P. “I have so much I want to share, and I want to respect people’s time, so I’m just ‘putting it all out there’ before I forget. Is this a problem?”

    This opened the door for a dialog about dialog – how the team was feeling like a torrent of water was being poured on them (different metaphor, not so nasty) and the VP implemented a different strategy the next time the group was addressed.

    Morale of the story – the boss wasn’t a “bad boss” but was using ineffective communication. Thank goodness a brave soul intervened and helped broker a solution.

    • Art Petty April 30, 2013 at 10:50 am - Reply

      Jennifer, great story! Wonderful example of how valuable it can be for us all to have someone who will give us the unvarnished feedback. It’s sometimes hard to see yourself as others do. -Art

  2. Mary Jo Asmus April 30, 2013 at 10:47 am - Reply

    Wonderful Art. You do have such a way with words! Oh, and you’re a great listener too.

    P.S. I believe better listening is in very short supply with bosses, and learning to do it well can make up for a multitude of other weaknesses. Its often where I begin with my coaching clients and sometimes doing it well is enough.

    • Art Petty April 30, 2013 at 10:49 am - Reply

      Thanks, Mary Jo! And a thousand times “yes” on the listening perspective! -Art

  3. Doug Miller May 1, 2013 at 10:48 am - Reply

    A addendum to your “bottom line for now.” Also, don’t be vindictive over what you have heard, even if you disagree with what has been said. If you do fire back, your people will lose trust, faith and respect for you as their leader and will become fearful; and then you will have to fill the silence with more of your own rhetoric.

    • Art Petty May 1, 2013 at 10:50 am - Reply

      Great add, Doug! Thanks, -Art

  4. Charles M May 2, 2013 at 9:38 am - Reply

    Great way to get fired. I know the problem you are raising first-hand, but this letter is exactly the wrong way to approach someone who talks incessantly and never listens.

    • Art Petty May 2, 2013 at 10:05 am - Reply

      Perhaps the tongue-in-cheek tone was lost on you. The message is for the idiots who blather on and on, of course.

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