Curing the Yackity Yack Disease

At Apple, my best boss* once walked out of a room, after calling a bunch of us “Yackety-Yakers”. 

Even though I’ve lived in the Bay Area of California since I was 5 years old, I definitely miss a lot of cultural references. I like to blame this on the fact that I don’t watch television, or that my first 3 languages were not English.  The truth is, some cultural stuff just eludes me.


I share that back story because when we were described as “Yackety-Yakers”, I thought he meant the animal, the Yak. My interpretation? I thought that he meant we spit when we talked. 

Which we probably did. Cause we knew how to make words, but not how to create change.

Common belief is that great and — perhaps even — inspired stuff will surely happen if you get the right (brilliant, educated, creative) folks together. Smart intelligent creative people in, means smart, awesome ideas out. But we didn’t fit into that mold. Unfortunately, it sometimes happens like this: when you take a bunch of passionate, talented, creative people and put them into a room together, only crap comes out.

Yep. You read that right. Crap.

Our yackety yack-sters knew how to have great ideas, but we actually couldn’t carry that great idea cross a finish line. Which is, after all, the whole point of working together.

First, we didn’t especially care about what the organization needed. In our case, we were good at jockeying for leadership or rebelling against others, and certainly trying to look brilliant…. but we lacked the ability to be a good protagonist for the benefit of the org.

We certainly didn’t know that exchanges are about a give/get mix. If you had told us that there is a time and place for speaking, we would likely have been dumbfounded. Just as much as many people need to know how to speak up, we needed to know how to listen. We need to give ideas, and get back perspective and give perspective to shape others’ ideas.

And finally, we needed to know more than how to just open our mouth and talk, we needed to know how to get heard.

It’s taken me 3 posts in HBR over the last month to share ways to cure the Yackity-Yak Disease. Too many teams suffer from it and don’t yet have a name for it.

Are You a Rebel or a Leader? (I talked about when I wrote the “what surrounds you” post)

3 Times You Have to Speak Up. (I haven’t previously shared this with you; it went out 2 weeks ago)

The Right Way to Get Your Idea Heard. (posted today)

[*Many thanks to John O. – Duffy]

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