Silicon Valley Wisdom: How to Find Out What’s Going On



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The worst question you can ask of your team is “Any questions?”. every now and then you might get some feedback, but for the most part people are reticent to contribute based on this particular prompt.

Any sort of team meeting can end up in this type of stalemate. Apple founder and CEO, Steve Jobs had a very constructive way of approaching this issue which has since become something of a standard approach in modern start-ups. And it’s well worth thinking about …

At the time when Steve Jobs was dividing his time between Apple and Pixar, he needed to very quickly establish what was happening when switching between these very different ventures. He would arrange sessions with various teams, ensuring that their immediate managers were not present, and in each session point to one person and say: “Tell me what’s not working”. Then he would point to somebody else and ask: “Tell me what is working”.

Of course, these are not “questions”, rather they are instructions specifically designed to avoid “yes / no” answers.

In this way he was able to quickly establish exactly what was happening in each of his various spheres of interest with the minimum amount of time and the maximum amount of accuracy.

I heard of this a long time ago and have deployed it many times within workforce teams, but also when talking to clients in sales and marketing situations. Opening a question / instruction with “Tell me …” is an extremely powerful mechanism to encourage honest feedback.



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