Weekly I/O #46

Prioritize and Communicate, Upper Management, Stage Changes Method, Same Mistakes but Sooner, Comfort the Confused and Confuse the Comfort

Weekly I/O is a project where I share my learning Input/Output. Every Sunday, I write an email newsletter with five things I discovered and learned that week.

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The below is extracted from the email sent on Sep 18, 2022

Here’s a list of what I’m exploring and pondering this week.

1. How to say no? Prioritize and communicate.

Podcast: Persuasive communication and managing up | Wes Kao (Maven, Seth Godin, Section4)

Saying no to people without making them feel irked is a gentle art. Lenny, the podcast host, talks about a 2x2 matrix of saying no: prioritize x communicate.

When someone gives us a task that is not on our plate, we could prioritize it among our priority list and not communicate what we will do and where the new task sits in the priorities. We could also communicate and not prioritize it, like saying, “sorry I don’t have time for this right now”.

However, what we should do is prioritize and communicate. We prioritize it among our list and communicate by saying something like, “this new task is going to be third in my priorities. Does this seem reasonable to you, or would you agree that I do this sooner or later?”

Wes Kao also gives an example of how one designer she worked with said no to her. Saying no is all about trade-offs. When she asked the designer to design something for her, he would say something like, “Yes, I can design this for you. That means that the thing I was going to work on today, redesigning this webpage, will have to wait until later this week to be finished. Do you want me to re-prioritize like this?”

For Wes, it felt like she was in control, and this technique converted the conversation from being Yes/No, are you a helpful team player or not, into making sure that we make sure the right things get done first.

2. Good upper management avoids surprises and keeps managers in the loop on what we are doing. The amount of context we think we are over-communicating is usually the right amount.

Podcast: Persuasive communication and managing up | Wes Kao (Maven, Seth Godin, Section4)

In a work context, surprises are generally not great. The general rule is don’t throw anything to your manager that catches them off guard.

Thus, the main thing for good upper management is to keep our manager in the loop on what we are doing and what decisions we are making. We should proactively give the right amount of context. The level of communication we think we are over-communicating is usually the right amount, especially when working remotely.

Lenny gives an example of how he sends a weekly update to his manager titled “State of Lenny” with three sections:

  1. His current priorities.
  2. Blockers he needs the manager’s help with.
  3. Things on his mind currently that week.

Wes Kao also mentioned that we can structure our communication so that someone who already understands it can get the gist and someone who doesn’t can continue reading through asynchronous communication.

3. Punctuate our monologue with stage changes in any presentation and meetings. Think about how long the average attention span is for the audience.

Podcast: Persuasive communication and managing up | Wes Kao (Maven, Seth Godin, Section4)

Why are most Zoom meetings draining? Why do we so quickly get distracted and want to turn off our cameras when listening to an online presentation? The average attention span is too short to bear a long monologue.

Stage changes are anything that shakes your audience awake and adds some variety. Some practical examples are asking a question, having someone else chime in and speak, putting something in the chat box, and pulling out a poll before we reveal something.

Wes mentioned in the podcast that the average attention span for students is two to four minutes. Though we can get many different numbers through google, the main point is clear: try to avoid monologue as much as possible.

You can learn more from Wes’s article: The State Change Method: How to deliver engaging live lectures on Zoom.

4. “If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.” — Tallulah Bankhead

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5. “Great writers comfort the confused and confuse the comforted” — David Perell

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I think this applies to all kinds of creators, such as artists. Creators make the familiar seem exotic, and the exotic seem familiar.

That’s it. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy it. If you would like to receive the content every Sunday, sign up below 😎

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