NATO - (No Action, Talk Only)


A New Definition of NATO

(No ActionTalk Only!)

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about a lesson learned from a difficult boss. Well this week I will expound on one of his other pearls of wisdom.  NATO, which in his vernacular stood for no action, talk only. Many meetings were held in which someone was called out for NATO. This is not a form or fashion of feedback that I would recommend to clients. However, it is worth the exercise to explore and understand the possible causes of NATO.


1.    It is our natural proclivity to cloak insecurity behind a veil of verbosity.  When a person finds himself or herself in a situation where they feel exposed, not knowing the answer, often the fallback is oral diarrhea. I would suggest a different approach. When you find yourself in that situation, stop and say these words, “I don’t have the answer right now, but I will get you the answer by X”.  Don’t allow yourself to hide behind words; being authentic is always the best course of action.

2.    We have all attended meetings where the only output is fluff. This typically occurs when there is a lack of understanding as to the purpose, desired outcome and deliverables of the meeting.  Make sure every meeting has a clear purpose and that all stakeholders understand the desired outcome. There should be clarity around expected deliverables and all should be held accountable.

3.    Many of the CEO’s I work with, lament about the lack of substance in the information provided by their direct reports. So often, they feel as if all they receive is talk. The remedy is measurement. When there is ambiguity, words often become the mechanism of explanation and the method of demonstrating value. The establishment of quantifiable objectives, KPI’s and a clear focus on outcomes, will lead to more effective communication. Not everything is a number, but all things are measureable, even if the measurement is subjective, so long as there is mutual understanding as to the expectation.

4.    Finally, just like kids, employees mimic people of authority. If a leader of an organization holds town halls or meetings in which they go on a long diatribe about the business, then it should be of little surprise that their employees will respond in kind, offering long rambling and shallow answers. Lead by action, not through words, show, do, and act. When you it is time for talk, focus on outcomes and facts. It is the old adage that actions speak louder than words.


I would welcome your examples of NATO, its cause and suggested cure. I am certain my list above is anything but exhaustive. Don’t allow NATO into your organization. Unity of purpose, clarity as to the desired outcome, measurement and personal accountability are the needed ingredients for meaningful action. They are the foundational elements of sustainable organizations. If you need action and not talk, schedule a free Growth Session. We can help.


Thanks for reading.

At The Intertwine Group, we are growth experts. Working to help family owned food, beverage and agribusiness by diagnosing and solving the issues that limit growth. With 25 years of experience and a proven model, we guarantee results.