Want It? Do Your Homework.

A CEO of a software company reaches out to me recently, and asks me to take a 20-minute meeting to review his strategy/execution software because it was a match to my interests.

Sounds low-key, right? After all, 20 minutes is barely any time at all so you’d think I’d say yes easily. But I didn’t. The person hadn’t stated what they wanted from me. And 20 minutes wasn’t enough for a dialogue. So I was pretty sure I was just going to get another pitch. And you know what? I really don’t need another pitch in my life. Ever.


So I put forth a requirement to do the meeting: read my first book, The New How, and tell me how the software fits into that model. I also implied he could show me how his software fit into any alternative experts model.

But he said “No, thanks”. And disappeared.

I find his behavior odd, don’t you? After all, of the different experts in strategy/execution, I’m probably in the top 20 or so. [This assumes a list of 20 or so folks, by the way. I’m not being arrogant but factual… there are only so many strategy/execution folks out here.] After all, if your expertise is in building software that closes that strategy/execution gap, don’t you want to know what’s is considered an important idea by leaders in the field?

But apparently he didn’t want to learn more. He simply said, “No Thanks!”. And disappeared.

He was unwilling to do the homework to do a successful meeting. He had no idea what he wanted. He asked for an unrealistic timeframe to create any real value. He was simply trolling for meetings, which maybe gave him the illusion of progress, but I’m darn sure he’s not making actual progress.

If you want a mentor or an advisor, here’s some simple ways to get one and to have it work for you.

  1. Know what you want. Your own discernment starts the learning process so you are only helping yourself. The more specific you are, the better. This will help you get a good match.
  2. Before asking, learn about the person. You’ve heard me say this before it is so easy to find out about people. Slideshare, Linked In, Twitter, Facebook, blogging. Seriously, it takes just a little bit to find out about people. Know what the person cares about. Dig beyond pg. 2 of the Google search. Find out why they would want to help someone else. Ideally, you can find a connection so that you can be introduced. Which will increase your odds of getting a “yes”.
  3. On their terms. If they hike, as I do (and have written about), offer to go on a hike with them. Even if they live another 100 miles away, plan on going to them. Everyone travels and just allow an extra space to connect in their city. Make it easy for them to say yes by doing all the heavy lifting. For example, you might write the blurb draft, if you are asking for help on your book. Do whatever to make it easy for them to help you.
  4. Charm. Use it. Don’t have it? Learn it. Charm never hurts. My friend Terri Griffith says I remind her to be kind rather than just blazing a trail on the right issue. That’s right. Remember charming and a good idea wins every time over bulldoggedness and right idea. Remember also, when you’re doing an ask… give them room to say no. It just may not be the right time, right now. You don’t know what is going on with them in their life. By remembering that, you can come back to them later without losing that opportunity.
  5. Do Your Part. When I help people, I’m putting in my X number years of experience into condensed simple-sounding lessons. My mentee’s job is to apply those lessons and get a going. [Well to be honest, you have 3 choices to ask a clarifying question, explain why you won’t do it, or do it. But those are your only 3 options.] Don’t ignore the advice of your mentor and then expect that relationship to continue. That’s your part of the bargain. Make shit happen, go kick some ass by using the lessons you learn. And then circle back and tell them what you did cause it reflects on them, too.

I’ve been a mentor and a mentee. I’ve been an advisor and an advisee. I’m grateful and amazed for all of those roles. It’s one reason why I love helping other people. The fact that I put a hurdle in the way? Well, that’s just a way of making sure the person is ready, we’re aligned, and together, something good can come from the time together.

2 Replies

  1. Great post! Asking specific questions and showing connection and passion can help the mentors feel more involved. Doing homework, respecting the time of the mentor and doing things by their terms and giving them feedback.I’m going to put these to work and write a feedback comment (citing examples) soon.

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