Covey, Cloud, and a Clue to Better Writing

by | Nov 24, 2021

“Efficiency with people is ineffective. With people, fast is slow and slow is fast,”

Stephen R. Covey

“Efficiency with people is ineffective. With people, fast is slow and slow is fast,” said the ever-quotable Stephen R. Covey. It’s not only good advice for interpersonal relationships at work and in life, but it also applies to good books, because every author writes to … you guessed it: people!
Dr. Henry Cloud, in the opening pages of his book, Boundaries for Leaders, begins with a story about a CEO he worked with. “[He] looked at me with one of those expressions that smart people get sometimes when something extra smart goes off in their heads, the kind of thought that captures even their own attention. Head tilted and eyes squinted, he said something profound:
“You know what is weird?”
“What?” I asked.
“Everybody out there is always trying to figure out the right plan. They meet, they argue, they worry and they put all of their energy into trying to come up with the ‘right’ plan. But the truth is that there are five right plans. There are a lot of ways to get there. The real problem is getting the people to do what it takes to make the plan work. That is where you win or lose. It’s always about the people.”

Cloud went on to expand the point, but do you see what he did with his writing? It would have been far more efficient just to write, “It’s all about people, not about having the right plan.” He could have written it that way to cut to the “bottom line,” his overall point. But instead, he drew you (the reader) in with a story about a client, including context and detail. He let the story make the point. Now the reader (or audience) will remember it. That’s good writing. It takes more time. But it works far, far better than spouting directives or stating facts.

Now it’s your turn. Go back and look at your latest writing project. Ask yourself how you can work in relevant stories that engage and illustrate rather than preach. Ban simple declarations of your own wisdom, unless you frame them with interesting stories or experiences that draw the readers in and make them believers in what you’re saying. It may not be efficient, but it will be far more effective and memorable.

Above all, keep writing!