Leadership

Why most people can’t listen and what it takes to get better

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Whatever your field, one skill is more valuable more than any other: listening.

Want to improve your product? Learn to listen. Want to get better at marketing or sales? Learn to listen. Relationships, people management, fundraising — learn to listen and you’ll improve at them all.

And yet, real listening is rare.

Like meditation, listening sounds easy but staying focused on another person’s thoughts is often as tricky as trying to sit quietly, focused on your breathing. Your own thoughts keep bubbling up, and soon, you’re thinking about something completely different.

Looks can be deceiving

If you search for ‘listening skills’ on Google, you’ll find plenty of articles telling you to lean in, tilt your head to one side, and repeat back what you hear. But this isn’t necessarily listening — it just gives the impression you’re listening. …


Fundraising

The value of your company depends on what motivates your acquirer

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There’s a lot of PR attached to $100M+ acquisitions, which makes them seem more common than they actually are. In reality, only a small fraction of companies ever get acquired, and of those, very few are valued in hundreds of millions of dollars.

For those of you building companies — or working at a company that may one day be sold — here’s a run-through of the six levels that motivate acquirers to buy companies, and the methods they use to value them.

Level 1: Talent acquisition (recruiting fees + time advantage)

Even if your product hasn’t hit the market yet, your company may have some value. Companies that need to scale quickly often buy small companies to speed up their growth, and this is called an ‘acquihire’. …


Management

Recommendations are often no better than a Google search.

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They say you find the best recruits, service providers, and investors by asking for recommendations. So I decided to test the theory.

I listed all my service providers and partners over the last three years, along with how I found them. Surprisingly, third-parties that came via a recommendation were less likely to succeed than those that came from other sources.

In fact, some of the worst people I’ve worked with came via my network.

What’s going on here?

Not all recommendations are created equal

Why do some recommendations work out, while others fail? …


Management

Round-robin retros can help all your team members feel truly seen and heard.

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Brené Brown, author of

Every time you don’t share how you’re feeling with a colleague, you’re taking out emotional debt. You’ll have to pay it back eventually, but it will cost you more to have the conversation later rather than sooner.

Emotional debt accumulates rapidly on every team, and your leadership team is no different. Sadly, there’s no Xero or QuickBooks keeping track of the debt and it’s pretty invisible, particularly to leaders.

What if I told you I could reduce the emotional debt in your leadership by 90% — and it would take just one hour of everyone’s time each week?

Stop it, Dave,’ I hear you collectively say. ‘That’s impossible.’ …


Psychology

Your business and your life might depend on it

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When successful people talk about their lives and careers, you’ll often hear them say one — or both — of the following:

  1. I worked my ass off.
  2. I was very lucky along the way.

You probably already work your ass off — especially if you’re working on something you truly believe in. The motivation of achieving a mission that’s bigger than you can keep you energised for many years.

But what about luck? That’s not quite as obvious.

From the outside, luck and skill are hard to differentiate. You’ve probably heard someone say something like, ‘Wow, they just raised £20M on an idea — now that’s skill.’ Except it may not be obvious that the founder went to school with the investor. Or maybe, ‘Wow, that app is taking off — now that’s luck.’ …


Communication

If you want to cultivate a growth mindset, you need to change the questions you ask.

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What do the following questions have in common?

  • Is this person experienced enough for the role?
  • Do we have the right strategy?
  • Am I a good leader?

Well, a few things. They are all at a company and maybe you’ve asked yourself something similar recently. But more importantly, they are also generally perceived as binary questions.

Let’s look at what binary questions are, and why you’re better off reframing them whenever you spot one.

What is a binary question?

A binary question is a closed question with only two answers — for example, ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Hidden in the question is an implicit assumption that there are only two categories into which the subject can fall: good or bad, right or wrong, and so on. …


Leadership

Luckily, there is an alternative.

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Do you recognise this scenario?

You have an employee who’s been with you a long time. They’ve stuck with you through thick and thin, the team loves them, and you can’t imagine your company without them.

However, they’re failing to keep up with new demands on their role — and people are starting to notice.

What do you do?

In Ashlee Vance’s biography of , he tells a story about Musk firing his assistant of 12 years after she asked for a raise. That’s 12 years.


Leadership

A practical guide to giving your company the culture shock it needs to succeed.

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When a company is small, founders have a huge personal influence on company culture. Their behaviours, , seep into the team fabric and provide a blueprint of what ‘good’ is supposed to look like.

However, this doesn’t last forever.

As the company grows, other factors influence team behaviours. Changes in , work environment, and exposure to new people inside (and outside) the company can impact people’s behaviours.

The adoption of new behaviours can even happen by accident. In a , actors in a waiting room were instructed to stand up each time a bell sounded. When unknowing participants entered the room, they began to imitate the actors, also standing up when the bell sounded. …


Management

The journey from one sale to one hundred starts with you.

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You’ve built a product or service that you plan to sell into companies. While the development team was building it, you went out and started to build relationships. After months of effort, you’ve landed a few pilots that represent a foot in the door.

You lean back and think, ‘This product is amazing. It’s time to scale sales as quickly as possible’. If this is where you are right now, great — I’m going to share with you exactly how to do it.

But if you’ve already tried to scale sales and it hasn’t worked, that’s fine too. …


Leadership

A manager’s guide to measuring the more subjective parts of the role.

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How do you measure your ability to delegate? Or to set clear expectations and build stronger relationships with your team?

Ambitious and thoughtful leaders often know which parts of their game they want to improve. However, wanting to improve and actually improving are different things. Professional development is notoriously difficult to measure.

At least, that’s what I used to think.

While objective quantities, such as conversion rates, revenues, and new hires are easily measurable, you can measure subjective things too — like professional development — if you use the right tools.

Professional development is subjective because it ultimately depends on the perceptions of other people.

About

Dave Bailey

CEO coach, 3X VC-backed founder, angel investor, speaker ()

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