Reader note: This was originally published on LinkedIn as I just got permission to start publishing on that platform.
I thought it would be fun to highlight three bits of advice that have always served me well in business. These aren’t the only three, but they’re my favorite three.
1. Show, don’t just tell
When you’re starting out in any position, it’s hard for others to view you as an expert in your specific line of work if you don’t have a proven track record yet. You can shout it from the rooftops that you’re an expert, but until you start proving yourself, your words fall on deaf ears.
Example: Instead of telling someone you have a great idea to use a new app, show them how you’ve used that in other ways that have really enhanced a particular part of the business.
2. Make them believe it’s their idea
Countless times I’ve run into this. I call it the, “I’m sure your idea is great, but mine is always better because I have more experience/talent/insight/power, etc.” i.e. Don’t start pitching an idea to your VP with the assumption that he or she 1) has never thought to do the same thing…because you may be surprised or 2) is even remotely interested in what you have to say.
Here’s how that shakes out…
“Hi Jim – I’m glad I could catch your ear for a minute. I’ve heard you talk so much about the customer experience and how it’s so important and wanted to know your thoughts on how to make that better.”
Then they go into a great schpeel on their core ideas and focus and then you use that as opportunity to insert your ideas…reshaped as one of their own.
“That’s great to hear, Jim. So when you’re solving for x, y and z, you’ve probably thought about implementing this super jazzy widget…because it sounds like that would work really with what you’re trying to accomplish.”
And then at that point they have the opportunity to tell you that yes, they had considered it or that no, they hadn’t, but maybe they’d love to learn more about it.
And just like that, your idea is theirs. And they love you for it. And they don’t feel threatened.
3. Continually ask the most important question ever, “Can you tell me more about that?”
Or to put it more succinctly, “Tell me more.” I got this from Nilofer Merchant (check out Lindsay’s post on her concept of “onlyness”) who was a keynote speaker at a conference I recently attended on content strategy. Basically, the quickest way to get your ideas squashed is to NOT ask any questions. I have so much experience with getting shut down that I think I’m an expert on avoiding it now. This little question is now my best friend.
And this also is my number one reason for meeting face-to-face when I need critical feedback on something.
“I see that you want to change this line of text. I wanted to understand your decision better. Can you tell me more about where you’re coming from because maybe I misunderstood the intent of this piece?”
Any opportunity to let other’s talk about their goals, their frustrations, or what keeps them up at night gives you credibility, a better understanding of view points other than your own, and a great relationship with that person.
What are some other ways that you get what you want in business?