The little things

January 12, 2011 at 11:25 am 31 comments

I’ve never been a big TV watcher, and for the past decade my two shows have been Lost and The Amazing Race. If you’re gonna choose two, then those are it, right?

Now Lost is gone forever (though I hold onto an ounce of hope) and the Amazing Race is in-between seasons…so I’ve got nothing. While out to dinner with a friend at this great sushi spot in San Francisco, she told me about a show she’s been watching for years: How I Met Your Mother. She let me borrow the first two seasons on DVD, and I was hooked. Netflix has brought me the rest of the way, and it’s been worth every minute.

Double Date

In the Season 5 episode “Double Date,” Ted, the main character, describes a time when he unknowingly went on the same blind date with the same woman (Jen) twice…7 years apart. When they discover what has happened, he and Jen decide to make the most of it. Walking through their first date, they tell each other what the other did to turn them off: Ted corrected a spelling error in the menu, Jen talked about her cats, Ted didn’t offer his coat when it was cold, Jen didn’t play the “who’s gonna pay the bill” dance, and so on. This causes Ted to ask, “could simple changes have catalyzed a series of events that would have changed our fate, maybe leading to marriage?” (Ted is obsessed with finding Ms. Right). This is a similar vein to the movie Sliding Doors, and it got me thinking that small behavioral changes really can make a big difference.

In business, it can equal not getting VC funding, losing budget approval for an internal project, or even not getting that job. The trick is understanding what personal changes you can make. For me, when I believe in something, I get pretty passionate. This is especially true when I’ve analyzed all the facts, and have had time to think through all the angles. At that point, I’m locked and loaded and you’re not changing my opinion. Well, apparently this has its downsides…

In late 2009 my team was working on the pricing strategy for a new product launch. The meeting with the relevant directors and VPs was set to decide on the final strategy. I came in knowing the right answer. I had the schedule, messaging, and numbers all worked out in my head, and had a great deck to back me up. I walked in confidently and laid out my opinion…which apparently came across less like opinion and more like fact. There were some ideological differences in the room, and my approach set off a tsunami of dissenting points of view. It quickly became 5 on 1, which I didn’t expect, and I knew that I’d caused it. Having my ducks in a row was great, but strolling in and immediately throwing those ducks at everyone didn’t go over so well. Needless to say, I lost.

After leaving the room I reflected. Was this a one time thing for me, or a common occurrence? I realized that I did this all of the time. I’ve always been good at debating “on the fly,” but I never realized that this was due to the fact that when I prepare I attack my audience! In some cases, this can turn out OK. Depends on the crowd. In this case it wasn’t good, and I’ve since changed this behavior. Know yourself, and know your audience. It’ll go a long way.

For more info, Mark Suster has a great post on presenting to different audiences here.

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A move from Microsoft’s playbook? Unlocking potential in the less encouraged

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About Me

I'm a San Francisco-based strategic thinker who believes that life is only as great as the people you choose to interact with. I love people, and studying business has given me greater insight into how to most effectively develop myself, and my personal relationships. I look forward to discussing people and business with those that find this area as fascinating as I do.

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