Use Your Blinker

I got to work today a little faster with the help of a lot of people.

Austin drivers can be a bit…cut-throat, but some of us still use our blinkers during rush hour. And some good Samaritans still believe in slowing down just a bit — when you’re trying to get from one lane to the next, there are a lot of people who can help you. It’s just a matter of letting enough cars see your blinker, and someone will let you in.

You have to let people know what you’re trying to accomplish in life, just like in commuting. And (just like in commuting), lots of people have the power to help you. Your network should include people from different backgrounds and with different experience levels. This will allow you to get a broad perspective on your problems. But it’s up to you to reach out to them and admit your vulnerability — that’s what they’re there for, after all.

But it works both ways — if I see a car cut someone off, I’m less likely to respect that same car’s blinker (grace is sometimes hard to come by at 7:30 AM). If you aren’t generous with your time and your wisdom, you shouldn’t expect the same from your personal network. Regardless of your religion, karma is a thing.

The hard part is asking 🙂 Whenever I’m networking, I always be sure to ask two questions towards the end of the conversation:

  • What are you trying to accomplish right now?
  • How can I help?

By inviting my friend to be a bit vulnerable, and by demonstrating generosity with my own experience and perspective, I can set things up in a way that allows me to ask for help.

A slight aside: there’s a psychological effect called the Norm of Reciprocity at play here, it’s worth checking out. If you proactively offer help, it primes your conversation partner to do the same.

In the spirit of practicing what I preach:

Since starting a new role at a larger company (read: not a startup), I’ve had a lot of success getting my team to execute shorter-term (2-4 week) assignments. I’ve had less success getting larger, cross-functional stuff moved forward. One project, in particular, really bothers me — we had the right idea at the right time, we just couldn’t execute. We missed our window, and that was all on me. This is what I’m working on this year — scaling execution and ownership.

I’d love any advice you have, or book recommendations.

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