After one of those awkward lift conversations with a stranger, one of IMA’s Engagement Managers, Marty told me that I “experiment with everything”. In an attempt to improve my ad hoc conversation skills he’d seen me have a series of lift conversations, some awkward and some not, and noticed my endless fascination with giving things a go, seeing what works, changing something and trying again.
I’m applying scientific method to my life.
I’ve applied it to a huge range of things, including work, sport, holidays, friendships, dating, family relationships as well as awkward lift conversations. The results have been mixed, but I seem to always end up in a much better place than where I started.
I typically follow a pretty simple process.
What result did I want?
The first thing I do is that before every “measured event” is defining what success is. Funnily enough this is harder than you would expect. Why? Because you can’t expect a home run in every encounter.
In the consulting world (my business) it’s unrealistic to set a goal of winning work in a first meeting with a potential client. Do they have work? Are you even a fit for their business? Expecting a home run is focusing on things beyond your control. A better target is to find out if they have work, if you are suited to them, and if it all matches then building the relationship and scheduling a second meeting. Or in other endeavours, not everyone I meet in the lift is going to be my BFF (Best Friend Forever for those older folks), but perhaps I can make them smile and find out a little about them.
Setting realistic, progressive and measurable goals and doing it consistently is the key.
What result did I get?
Reflecting on your attempt is the next part. Once I’ve set a goal and tried to achieve it, I take a clear eyed, hard nosed, and honest assessment of the success or otherwise of my attempt.
Craig Horne (@craigthebold) used to ask me “What result did you want?” and then “What result did you get?”.
I love those two questions. They strip away excuses. You wanted result A you got result B. Nowhere to hide.
What do I need to do to get the result I want?
With the hard part done, the easiest is working out what you need to do to get a better result.
It’s easy because it’s OK not to know what to do.
In that case I usually just try something different that seems like it could work. And if I’ve run out of ideas I try something I think won’t work, but I always make sure I try something different if the result isn’t there.
What’s the glue that holds this process together? It’s you don’t be hard on yourself. Everyone is expected to be bad at first, second and third try in fact every time anyone learns a new skill.
I hate to fail, you might be that person too. Allowing myself to fail, or better yet, expecting to fail and being OK when it happens is the glue that holds this process together. It allows me to realistically assess what went wrong without making excuses. As the easiest way not to fail is not to try, expecting failure stops me avoiding failure by avoiding the situation, allowing me to jump back into the fray immediately and try again. And volume is often the best method of improving at anything (see my post on working harder not smarter).
So that’s how I am failing my way to success one awkward lift conversation at a time.