People - and companies - often come asking for help with their processes, plans, and procedures.
I always begin by asking questions. Usually, the best answer or solution to their problem will be found right there in front of them - in plain sight.
I'm not the only one who thinks so.
Here's something from Sebastian Marshall along those same lines, but with a "sales" twist.
"... your goal shouldn't be to look competent; it should be to be competent."
A consultant goes into a company and gets an assignment to improve sales. He talks to various people in sales, and asks who the best salespeople in the company are. There's pretty consistent agreement -- the best salespeople are Mary, Joe, and Matt.
Eventually the consultant goes to present to entire sales force. He asks, "Do you all know who the best salespeople in the company are?"
Everyone knows -- it's Mary, Joe, and Matt.
So the consultant asks, "How many of you have taken the time to ask Mary, Joe, or Matt what their process is, and why they're doing so well?"
And no hands go up.
There seems to be three reasons why people don't ask others who are further along than them for feedback --
(1) Not realizing it's important, not thinking of it, just not realizing it's an option.
(2) Worrying about bothering the other person and wasting their time.
(3) Being afraid of looking stupid or amateurish.
The only possibly good reason is #1, not realizing how important it is to ask others for feedback. That's forgivable if it had never occurred to you that it's possible to do, and it hadn't occurred to you that it's worth a tremendous amount.
But, now you know better. One of the fastest ways to improve in life is to ask anyone who is good at anything you care about what their process is like.
Something like, "You seem to write a lot of great stuff. I was wondering how you started doing that?"
Or, "I noticed you seem to be good at dealing with difficult negotiations without losing your cool. I lose my cool sometimes... were you always cool like that? Any thoughts on why you've got that, and most people don't?"
These go a long way, are easy to do, and are powerful.
But what about bothering people?
This is important:
High performers often don't carefully deconstruct their own thinking very often, and it's very, very, very valuable for them to do so.
I've asked a lot of, "You're better than me at X, I've tried X, but I don't get it like you get it..." type questions over the years, and do you know how many people were aggravated or thought it a waste of time?
Close to zero. Heck, maybe zero. I can't think of one.
People like to think through their thought process. Getting asked these questions is one of the fastest ways for them to improve. Plus it's flattering and cool. And if anyone teaches you anything cool, go out of their way to get them a small gift later.
Really, it's no hassle and a very big gain for people.
Which brings us to #3, which is the most insidious of them all.
Most people are worried about looking stupid and amateurish.
There's this feeling that you should know everything already, right? Of course, it sounds silly when it's put like that, but that's how most people seem to operate. They're afraid of seeming dumb.
The two-part answer here is that, first, asking questions makes you look smart most of the time. Being dedicated to learning and focused on getting better is always a positive.
But, truthfully, you do look amateurish and stupid sometimes. But that's okay, because your goal shouldn't be to look competent; it should be to be competent.
Look, if you don't know, you need to start knowing. If you're not exceptional, you want to get there ASAP. Looking stupid for a minute -- which rarely happens, even -- is far better than staying ignorant for a lifetime.
Wake up to the idea that asking people who are good at what they do -- good students, good teachers, good levels of physical fitness, good at your career, people with good family lives, good social lives, people who are good with money, good investors, and so on -- asking these people about their way is incredibly valuable.
Don't worry about wasting their time. Be gracious. But recognize it's very valuable for them too.
And then stop worrying about looking stupid. The best way to look good is to be exceptional at what you do.
Love that last line:
"The best way to look good is to be exceptional at what you do."
The fact remains that far too many of us are afraid. Afraid of looking foolish, afraid of what other's may think, and sometimes, we're just afraid for no reason at all.
Shiny new salespeople need your help, your expertise, and most of all - your patience. Don't worry. It will be easy to tell which ones are interested in becoming top sales people and which ones aren't.
The good ones always ask questions.
And the great ones never stop learning.