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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What Am I Doing HERE!

Have you ever decided to accept an invitation or been required to attend a meeting?  Most likely, you have.  There is a greater chance that you went to one of these meetings with the attitude, “What Am I Doing Here!”   You have ignored meeting with the individual or group in the past and had great reasons for ignoring them.  One day, you ended up accepting the invite to meet and as the meeting grew closer, you started looking for ways to avoid going.

Remember the article “Even a Blind Squirrel Can Find Nuts?”  This is the thought that has carried me through these types of meetings and turned some of them into potentially useful relationships.  It is always hard to determine what other people want or think without engaging them.  Making conclusions on future endeavors with zero data makes no sense.  The best way to approach these meetings is seeking a way to work together.  You do not have to bend over backward to end up with a positive relationship, but you certainly will not end up with one if you never try.  I believe it is OK to be firm in your expectations and direct in your approach.  The real goal is to explore how a relationship can be turned into a Win-Win.  This effort really requires care and thought on both sides. 

It is very easy to use that gut feeling to make decisions.  If this is one of your main assets, it likely works well for you.  However, I suggest you read the book “Thinking Fast and Slow”, by Daniel Kahneman. The book describes two systems of thinking. One highlights the gut feel or intuition approach for doing things.  The other utilizes a more analytic and thoughtful means of approaching problems.  Interestingly, most people make gut decisions regularly and end up well.  The book shows how this may not be the best way to approach problems and that carefully thought approaches have better outcomes.

In the last few months, I have made the purposeful decision to attend meetings that I wanted to avoid.  My days leading to the meetings and the travel caused me to ask, “Why am I going?  I had decided the meetings were not worth the time and I would regret them.  I almost canceled on a few of them.  I went anyway and the results were very different than my intuition had suggested, possibly because my discussions were more direct and that I planned what I wanted from the discussions.  It is still unclear whether the meetings will end up in a Win-Win, but I now see paths to that outcome.

The point is that while your time is limited, your startup needs all the thinking you can provide.  Acting on intuition is fine, but there are those times you need to put more strategic thinking in place.   A saying we used during financings was “I am kissing a lot of frogs to find that prince or princess.”  This is true in developing partnerships or new business directions.  Sometimes, doing things you want to avoid may eliminate a possible benefit you had previously ignored.

Next time you think of meetings as something to avoid, think about what an ideal outcome of the meeting would be.  Do the required planning to prepare for the meeting so you can direct the discussions along the lines to achieve the benefits you wish to obtain.  You will have an advantage because you can just walk away if you feel results are less than satisfactory.  The ability to walk away is a powerful advantage in these situations.  Next time, rather than miss an opportunity, try extract the Win-Win to benefit for your startup.  Why not!
Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon