3 questions for urgent collaborations

From time to time, product teams are pulled together to figure out a quick solution to a problem. This sort of urgent + forced collaboration can often be a recipe for confusion and chaos.

A simple way to avoid that is to habitually work through 3 questions in sequential order:
(1) Are we aligned on the problem?
(2) Are we aligned on its importance/priority? (this involves a conversation of the metrics/incentives at play)
(3) Are we aligned on the plan to fix it?

These 3 simple questions are extremely effective in saving conversations from useless tangents and unproductive rabbit holes flow from un-discussed assumptions.

And as with many simple + effective questions, the hard part is not in the knowing. It is in the consistently doing. :-)

Labors of love

In most large organizations, customer service/frontline representatives are actively discouraged to get too emotionally attached to a customer problem.

Be pragmatic, do the basics, and apologize nicely if it doesn’t solve the customer problem.

It definitely seems like the efficient thing to do.

But, customer loyalty is not won by pragmatic actions. It isn’t won by nice apologies either.

It is won by labors of love – when we go the extra mile for our customers.

It is won when folks do exactly what the system tells them not to do.

Good deal, great deal

We can get a good deal with some effort.

But, getting a great deal often takes a lot of effort. It doesn’t scale linearly.

So, great deals – funnily enough – come with a cost. They require us to invest our time and bandwidth.

So, it is helpful to be clear about the areas of our lives where we want to get that great deal. Best to pick areas where we’re sure the juice will be worth the squeeze.

Going through the unimaginable

I shared a story about a young one-time neighbor passing away recently.

We learnt of the story of the friend who was with him a few days later. She was raised by a single mother. And, it turns out that they had just lost her brother to an accident 2 years earlier.

She was also 29.

It is hard to imagine what that mother must be going through.

I was reminded of an incredibly touching song from Hamilton – the musical. It’s called “It’s quiet uptown.”

There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable

There are moments that words don’t reach indeed.

Responding to “Tell me about yourself”

In most interviews, the first question is some variant of “Tell me about yourself.” This question is an opportunity to make a great first impression. There are 4 elements to great responses. Here’s the synthesis:

(1) Start with a mission/purpose statement. In a sentence, explain what matters to you. It always makes for a powerful start. If you manage to reinforce it in the rest of your story, we go from powerful to potent.

(2) Pick 3 milestones and explain the why + the relevant skill/learning . You don’t need to talk about every step in your career. Pick 3 that matter – this could be why you went to college, took a particular job, or even worked on a particular volunteer project. Explain why you chose to do what you did and what you learned. Ensure every skill/learning maps to a skill that is critical in this role. If all goes well, the interviewer will have no doubt about the relevance of your experiences and skills.

(3) As you approach the end, make it clear why you’re looking for a move. Great self introductions don’t require a “why are you interviewing now/for this role?” follow up question.

(4) Take no more than 2.5 to 3 mins. Anything more and your interviewer begins to wonder about your ability to communicate concisely. :-)

It takes a lot of practice to get to a self-introduction that has these elements without looking forced.

But, first impressions matter. So, it is practice that pays off.

The games we play

We all play games. Some of these are games of wealth. Others are games of status. We play these games in different ways. For different rewards.

We can’t avoid these games. We can’t avoid people who play very differently from our preferred way either. And, we often spend time others who play different games altogether.

All we can do is be intentional about choosing the games we play and choosing who we play them with.

There are few things worse than winning games we never wanted to win. With people we never wanted to play with.