Communication Leadership Learning Qualities Self awareness

Simplifier or Complexifier?

Simplicity is the name of the game. Those capable of making the complex simple have a permanent edge.

I’m not a finance guy.

But I’ve done enough finance in my life to understand the principles when I put my mind to it. My brain can build many connections fast, but when it comes to finance, I need to think.

That’s why I’ve always admired people who can make complex stuff easy to understand. 

I remember working with one CFO, who I still remember being the best finance expert I’ve ever met, not just because he knew what he was doing, but predominantly because he could explain what he was doing in layperson’s terms so everybody would understand it.

When you left a presentation with him, you felt you were a finance expert yourself. That’s how good he was.

Finance was also the only thing he cared about. As soon as we started to discuss other topics, he would take his blackberry out of his pocket and start doing other stuff. He didn’t care and was only interested in the numbers game.

He was, in my eyes, a simplifier.

Not just because he could simplify what he was saying but also because he did his work and lived his life; I don’t think I saw him ever dressed differently than a pair of slacks and a jacket.

Simplifying is the name of the game.

Just ask all the fans of Marie Kondo and the decluttering movement she has created. Decluttering your wardrobe, desk, laptop, and house makes a particular piece of mind once you’re through. A clean desk is less distracting than a desk full of piles of paper.

So your aim should always be to simplify as much as you can.

Less is really more.

People will love you when you limit your number of PowerPoint slides or don’t use slides at all. The best meetings I’ve had were meetings where we just went over several questions we wanted to get answered.

PowerPoints help to tell your story, but they should never be THE story. You are the story. What’s coming out of your mouth is the story, not what’s written on the stupid screen.

And what comes out of your mouth should make sense and be easy to understand for your audience.

People don’t like people who make things complex. They just don’t. Some people have a gift for making things so complex that nobody knows what’s happening anymore.

The question is whether they do it deliberately or don’t know any better. Do not have any patience with people who you believe are intentional about complexity because it makes them look smarter. Ditch them.

Those who do it unintentionally or have never learned how to do it well need your help and feedback. Show them you care and help them to simplify things.

Make them aware. 

I’m aware that I can sometimes speak too long. I force myself to keep things simple and on point. That helps me to be clearer. 

To finish with my favorite Powerpoint. Start by thinking through what message they’re trying to send and the best way to do so. Force them to limit their slides. Count with 5′ per slide, so they can only have six slides when they have to speak for 30′. Most people freak out when you tell them this. They think you can present a deck of 100 slides in 30′.

And you can. I’ve seen it done. But the audience never followed.

Stretch people to think simply and to the point.

Your turn: Simplifier or Complexifier

Do more of what makes you happy!


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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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