Worthy of imitation

Why we have to stop answering our own questions

Most of us believe we have to talk in order to be persuasive, but one of the best ways is to ask good questions, listen to the answers, and integrate those answers into the way forward, acknowledging the person who contributed. 

PeterBregman.com: If You Want People to Listen, Stop Talking, 2015-May-26 by Peter Bregman Tq150605ldl

It is easy to fall into the habit of persuasion by argument. But arguing does not change minds — if anything, it makes people more intransigent. Silence is a greatly underestimated source of power. In silence, we can hear not only what is being said but also what is not being said. In silence, it can be easier to reach the truth....

I could tell what George was doing, because when he decided to speak, he was able to articulate each person’s position. And, when he spoke about what they said, he looked at them in acknowledgement, and he linked what they had said to the larger outcome they were pursuing.

Here’s what’s interesting: Because it was clear that George had heard them, people did not argue with him. And, because he had heard them, his perspective was the wisest in the room....

“When you ask a question into a group,” he told me, “think of it as a competition. If you answer your own question, you’ve lost."


Asking to get (what Sarah said)

Medium: The art of asking: or, how to ask and get what you want, 2013-Sep-9 by Sarah Kathleen Peck [highlight added.]

Put the ask on the table. Make it easy to find. Make your wishes known.

  • Give alternatives if you’d like, but stick to two, maximum three. Sometimes it’s easier for people to say yes to one of two options rather than having to choose between many. Stick to just one or two things.
  • Start with small wins. Ask incrementally for specific, small things. Get a foot in the door. Don’t ask for the big thing until you’ve established rapport, responsibility and demonstrated follow-through with someone.

14. Pay attention to context and surrounding cues. People make decisions based on their physical surroundings—much more than they would probably believe.


What makes me think... remembering David Carr

So many good ideas and observations have surfaced from the late, great David Carr today. I was not always a fan, but everyone is sharing their favorite clips, and I am blown away by the insights he achieved. 

Tq-120822-euReading the clip below, which says that literature helps us understand things we cannot experience, brought back an important memory for me. After I quit Ogilvy for the second time, I was very bitter and confused about how to work with passion inside an organization. Hypocrisy and pettiness confronted me everywhere I turned. I met a wise older man at a meeting and I commented that I hoped the next generation wouldn't have to experience the same confusion and disappointment as I had. He shook his head and said everyone would have to learn it the same way. 

Now, I think everyone is fated to have their idealism bruised to some extent. That is a part of growing up. But the years-long frustration which wasted ten years of my career was not fate. Today I work hard to create a professional legacy for the people who want to work with passionate enthusiasm. We can build a better place to work. 

NY Times: David Carr by the Book, 2014-Sep-22 by Pamela Paul

If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be?

Probably “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien. I came of age just as the Vietnam War was ending and all of the vets I knew were so ruined or freaked out that I had no understanding of what they had been through. The book taught me that literature could explain things to me in a way that I could understand. It’s not like being there, but putting a prism of words on the experience of others turned it into something I could see or at least imagine.


Be authentically evolving as a leader

When leaders are admonished to 'be authentic' they sometimes translate that as 'stick to your knitting' or 'to thine own self be true.' Actually, leaders must always aspire to being better at what they do, and that means changing.  Tq130711fd

HBR.org: The Authenticity Paradox, 2015-Jan by Herminia Ibarra

When we look only within for answers, we inadvertently reinforce old ways of seeing the world and outdated views of ourselves. Without the benefit of what I call outsight—the valuable external perspective we get from experimenting with new leadership behaviors—habitual patterns of thought and action fence us in. To begin thinking like leaders, we must first act: plunge ourselves into new projects and activities, interact with very different kinds of people, and experiment with new ways of getting things done. Especially in times of transition and uncertainty, thinking and introspection should follow experience—not vice versa. Action changes who we are and what we believe is worth doing.


The first two lessons from L.L. Bean

L.L. Bean has always been a leader in using customer data. When following, the challenge is to figure out what you can afford to imitate. They've been doing it since 1912, when the business was launched using a list of people with hunting licenses. Not just a group of hunters, but a list of men holding nonresident Maine hunting licenses. That's a very targeted list of people with cold, wet feet, and little preparation on how to avoid the discomfort.  Tq121119jb

The first lesson, I think, is that having a lot of data is less important than having strategic data you can use. The founder of L.L. Bean didn't even have a solution before he began. He just threw out a 'minimal viable product' which turned out NOT to be viable, but he offered a full guarantee and kept coming back to his customers with better solutions. 

The next lesson is to make sure that data is connected to people, and that you keep people in mind when you're using the data. Assume the diversity is an opportunity for personalization. Assume that people grow and change. Remember that people share that data because they trust you. Use the data for mutual benefit. 

Backchannel: Big Moose is Watching You, 2014-Nov-3 by Virginia Heffernan 

Superb data, superb marketing, boots in beta: That was enough to found a company on.

So it should have been no surprise — and still it was — to see mild-mannered Chris Wilson, Senior Vice President of something called Direct Channel at L.L. Bean, at the Javits Center in Manhattan this month, discussing data. Many in the audience — programmers from around the world — had never heard of the Bean boots. But they knew about the company’s ravenous appetite for data. Specifically, they packed the standing-room-only Bean session at the Strata + Hadoop World “Make Data Work” conference to hear about L.L. Bean’s 10+ TB on-premise enterprise data warehouse and its newer deployment of (still more extensive) cloud data, fully 100 TB, which can be collected and used in realtime by customer-service reps on the phone, online and in stores.

Also on stage was Doug Bryan, a data scientist from RichRelevance, which has partnered with Bean to a create a data-centric, single view of each online Bean consumer, as lavish and lifelike as a portrait by John Singer Sargent.


First step in loyalty: be loyal to yourself

I was in Zabar's again a couple of weeks ago. There's really no good reason for me ever to go back. Their food makes me fat. I actually dislike their bagels and coffee! I usually have to go out of my way to be there when it's open. There's nothing important nearby. And yet every year I trek back. They continuously update it, but Zabar's always feels the same. Like the first year of my happy marriage when my husband and I were starting out in New York. 

My loyalty to Zabar's is irrational. It's not based on any shared value except being true to oneself. The store has grown stronger over the years, but held onto its identity, even as the neighborhood around it has changed. You can spend a lot of money there, but you can find joy in spending a couple of bucks (chocolate croissants). 

Zabar's is really, really nice to its customers. I don't recognize their owners or employees, and they don't recognize me but we respect one another. Most places in New York have disappeared or changed since we moved away, but Zabar's survives. It's inspiring.


Turn Inspiration Into Action, by Leo Babauta

Habits resist change. We should plan to deal with that. Whether you're resisting a bad habit or nurturing a good one, expect the resistance and use it like a cue to push on through.

Daily Good: Turn Inspiration into Action, 2014-Sep-28 by Leo Babauta

At the moment when you want to avoid it, pause. There will be a moment (or a bunch of moments) when you think, “Oh, I’ll do it tomorrow.” That’s the moment you have to not let pass idly by. Stop yourself, and just sit there for a moment, not going on your computer, just turning inward. What are you afraid of? What’s stopping you? There is a discomfort you’re trying to avoid. Instead, smile, and start. Do it and enjoy it in the moment. You’ll love it.