How to Professionally Yell

The key to getting more done.

Dear friendly and kind people,

You are not getting as much done as you could.

You constantly meet with people, you communicate your ideas and goals, and you try to motivate your team with reasons and rewards. You hope that with enough repetition they will actually listen.

But it’s not working.

You could save more of your time if you used a simple communication technique. It really makes a difference.

It’s called the professional yell.

Hold on. Is it not unprofessional to yell? US Money says it is the #1 sign you have a bad boss.

But it’s a different type of yelling.

I’ve seen it in action and I want to explain what it is and how to do it. Your meetings, leadership, and group communication will multiply greatly in productivity.

Three people who professionally yell(ed)

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs knew how to professionally yell. His yelling came from a deep passion founded in a specific vision for a product. Rarely did it have anything to do with the person.

However, Steve Jobs crossed the line from professional yelling to personal yelling often. Personal yelling is when you attack the person, not the problem.

In his forthright biography, Steve Jobs, Isaac Walterson said Jobs’ “nasty edge was not necessary”:

It hindered him more than it helped him. But it did, at times, serve a purpose. Polite and velvety leaders, who take care to avoid bruising others, are generally not as effective at forcing change. Dozens of colleagues whom Jobs most abused ended their litany of horror stories by saying that he got them to do things they never dreamed possible.

My Boss

I work in one of the largest real estate offices in my (relatively small) city. The accomplished founder/CEO is someone I greatly respect. He has the warmest chuckle and the friendliest simplicity I’ve ever seen. He is as kind as he is ingenious in business.

Also, he deploys the professional yell, masterfully.

I’ve watched how he does it. It’s natural, authentic, and passionate. But, you say, “natural”, “authentic, and “passionate” describe the personal yell just as much as the professional yell. What’s different about the professional yell?

It’s this: as soon as he finishes yelling, he immediately resumes his calm and collected demeanor. He can turn it on and off in an instant.

He finishes, says thank you, listens, or turns to the next person or project in his day without any emotional spillover. He never loses control.

Ray Lewis

At the time of writing this, my social media networks are fraught with clips and stories of violent riots in Baltimore. It’s scary.

Ray Lewis yelling at Baltimore Rioters

Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens’ gargantuan linebacker, posted a video on his Facebook page and within 8 hours reached well-over 15.5 million views.

It was a video of him yelling at the rioters to get off the streets of Baltimore, the city he loves so passionately. You can tell that he is cut deep to the heart by what is happening.

So he yells loudly. He spreads his arms wide and then brings them in to a heavy punch in front of his chest. He can barely stay seated.

This was a professional yell. Why? For three reasons:

  1. He didn’t lose it.
  2. He said nothing profane.
  3. He desperately desired positive change.

The professional yell is powerful and effective. Morag Barrett, the CEO of SkyeTeam, a leadership development company, said, “Raising your voice at the right level and the right time is the skill of a great leader.”

Raising your voice at the right level and the right time is the skill of a great leader.

How to Professionally Yell

We’ve seen how others do it, but the professional yell does not come easy for everyone; it takes practice to develop. At its core, it takes a good amount of self-awareness. Do not begin professionally yelling until you first have the ability to take a third-person view of yourself, assessing your own temperament, as well your impact on others around you.

Here are three best-practices for the professional yell:

  1. The professional yell is vision-based. In other words, you strongly desire a positive change. Steve Jobs urgently needed his team to not settle for anything less when building the iPhone and iPad. Ray Lewis burned with passion to get Baltimore to change its behavior. The foundation is a vision for something better in the future.
  2. The professional yell is emotional, but not out of control. People naturally follow passion. But if you lose your head with someone, regardless of how loud you shout, s/he will stop listening to you. My boss knows that as soon as you lose control of your emotions, the effectiveness of the professional yell is lost.
  3. The professional yell is not personal. It is not an ad hominem attack.Ad hominem is latin for “to the man” or “to the person.” Meaning, you are more focused on insulting the character of the other person than on solving the problem. Avoid, avoid, avoid!

Your turn

If you are interested in developing a professional yell into your life but don’t know where to start, then welcome to the club. I don’t either, but here is how I’m going to start.

The One Minute Manager, a quick read used by millions of managers in Fortune 500 companies and small businesses nationwide, talked about the three most critical conversations a manager can have with an employee:

  1. One Minute Goal Setting: Outlining with the employee specific goals, benchmarks and consequences (good and bad).
  2. One Minute Praisings: Catching someone doing something right, and recognizing them for it.
  3. One Minute Reprimands: Catching unproductive or negative behavior immediately, and explaining to the employee what the consequences have been. The first 30 seconds are a reprimand, last 30 seconds are a praising.

The professional yell complements these conversations. Let loose the yell, following the best practices above, within the parameters of each one minute conversation goal and watch what it adds.

The desired outcome of the listener is inspiration with an edge of bewilderment. If you’ve left them emotionally shaken, or confused, you’ve yelled unprofessionally. It should be a motivating, clear, and positive experience for both sides. The purpose was clear, your vision is clear, and you both understand why it is good.

If done right, you’ll be surprised how much more productive your meetings will be.

This article also appears on Medium and is published here with the permission of the author
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