Asking questions to build relationships

From Starting Anew by Apple SVP Retail Angela Ahrendts:

My father used to always say, “Ask questions, don’t make assumptions.” Questions invite conversations, stimulate thinking, break down barriers, create positive energy and show your willingness to understand and learn. Questions show humility, acknowledgement and respect for the past, and give you greater insights into both the business and individuals. And don’t be afraid to ask personal questions or share a few of your personal details. Talking about weekend interests, family and friends can give you a more complete view of your peers and partners, their passion and compassion. Building a relationship is also the first step in building trust, which quickly leads towards alignment and unity.

(1) Many others have pointed out the importance of asking questions. Angela Ahrendts adds a new perspective: questions as relationship builders.
(2) Cf. How to ask great questions.

The open meeting

From Founder productivity hack: The open meeting by John Gannon:

This is a great hack for founders but also for any busy professional who gets a lot of inbound requests to network over coffee, drinks, etc. By adopting this hack you still get to meet interesting people and help people out but you don’t stress out your calendar in the process.

– Set a consistent weekly timeslot (I recommend 2 hours) and location that can accommodate at least a few people for a meeting. Could be your office, a big coffee shop, a bar…doesn’t matter just as long as there is space for people to congregate.

– When you get requests to meet for coffee reply to the person let them know that you will be available at the timeslot/location you selected. You should also let the person know they should email you the day before to let you know that they are coming.

Saying “no” to good ideas

From 14 Ways To Be A Great Startup CEO by Jason Baptiste:

You will be inundated with a list of requests from potential partners, investors, employees, and more. They will all sound absolutely wonderful. As you grow, you will also have the resources to execute more of them. Don’t. It’s easy to say yes, but so very hard to say no. By having an uncanny ability to say no, you can keep your company on track with the large vision you maintain. It will also keep your team members (notice I don’t like to use the word “employees”) laser focused and feel more rewarded as they are able to focus on one thing for a good chunk of time. I’ve seen too many startups sink because the CEO keeps changing what the head of product and engineering should be doing.

(1) The job of a great manager is to focus the company’s limited resources on what’s most impactful. That means saying “no” to good ideas.
(2) Saying “no” to bad ideas is easy. It’s the good ideas that can distract and de-focus you.

Why you should take a walk at 3pm

From Why You Should Seek Quiet Every Day by Herbert Lui:

Every day at around 3PM, my brain gets weary. I’ve tried numerous techniques to counter this challenge:

- Coffee (especially when McDonald’s was giving away free smalls)
– Splashing cold water on my face
– Wandering around online
– Snacking

Yet I’ve found one technique to be the most effective: going for a walk. The longest stroll I’ve taken is around 10 minutes, and I just wander around the block.

How to overcome fear in public speaking

From Seth Godin:

Speaking in public: two errors that lead to fear

1. You believe that you are being actively judged
2. You believe that the subject of the talk is you

When you stand up to give a speech, there’s a temptation to believe that the audience is actually interested in you. This just isn’t true. (Or if it is, it doesn’t benefit you to think that it is).

You are not being judged, the value of what you are bringing to the audience is being judged. The topic of the talk isn’t you, the topic of the talk is the audience, and specifically, how they can use your experience and knowledge to achieve their objectives.

The members of the audience are interested in themselves. The audience wants to know what they can use, what they can learn, or at the very least, how they can be entertained. If you realize that you have a chance to be generous in this moment, to teach and to lead, you can leave the self-doubt behind and speak a truth that the audience needs to hear. When you bring that to people who need it, your fear pales in comparison.

Don’t ask multiple choice questions

From The one conversational tool that will make you better at absolutely everything by Shane Snow:

When people are nervous, they tend to ramble, and their questions tend to trail off into series of possible answers. (“What’s the most effective way to find a good programmer? Is it to search on Monster or to go on LinkedIn or to talk to people you know or … uh… uh… yeah, is it to, um…is there another job site that’s good …?”)

You’re the one with the question; why are you doing all the talking? Terminate the sentence at the question mark. It’s OK to be brief.

On that note, learn to be comfortable with silence. Allow your respondent to think; don’t jump in with possible answers after a few seconds pass. You won’t get answers if you keep talking, and you’ll rarely learn anything if you offer all the answers.

Notes: (1) Compare to Mark Suster’s wide (and uninterrupted) questions. (2) Thank you Zvi Provisor for the tip.

Limiting decision fatigue

From How Barack Obama Gets Things Done by Sean Blanda:

“I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing,” he told Michael Lewis. “Because I have too many other decisions to make.”

From Wikipedia:

In decision making and psychology, decision fatigue refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual, after a long session of decision making. It is now understood as one of the causes of irrational trade-offs in decision making. For instance, judges in court have been shown to make less favorable decisions later in the day than early in the day. Decision fatigue may also lead to consumers making poor choices with their purchases.

Note: This is one of the reasons why it’s important to delegate goals, not tasks. You can’t make decisions for everyone in your company.

Is this better than taking notes?

From The 30 second habit with a lifelong impact by Robyn Scott:

If you only do one thing, do this: Immediately after every lecture, meeting, or any significant experience, take 30 seconds — no more, no less — to write down the most important points.

I’ve been trying it out for a few months. Here’s what I’ve found so far:
– It’s not note taking
– It’s hard work
– Detail is a trap
– You must act quickly
– You learn to listen better, and ask better questions
– You’re able to help others more
– It gets easier and more valuable

Thank you Daniel Reidler for the tip.