What’s the best way to be a good listener?

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: Advice or criticism?

Here’s a simple way to process advice: Try it on. Instead of explaining to yourself and to your advisor why an idea is wrong, impossible or merely difficult, consider acting out what it would mean. Act as if, talk it through, follow the trail. Turn the advice into a new business plan, or a presentation you might give to the board. Turn the advice into three scenarios, try to make the advice even bolder…

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
When you’re given advice, here’s how to listen with an open mind | A Founder’s Notebook

In my experience, two factors enable you to listen to advice with an open mind: (i) Never forget that you are the decision maker. Whatever advice you get (and “try on”), the decision is still yours. (ii) Never give your opinion about the advice, or make a decision, on the spot. If you do that you’ll get you into an argument, and lose your feeling of being the decision maker.

Angela Ahrendts (VP of Retail at Apple, CEO of Burberry)
Asking questions to build relationships | A Founder’s Notebook

Questions invite conversations, stimulate thinking, break down barriers, create positive energy and show your willingness to understand and learn. Questions show humility, acknowledgement and respect for the past, and give you greater insights into both the business and individuals. And don’t be afraid to ask personal questions or share a few of your personal details.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
How to be a better listener | A Founder’s Notebook

I frequently listen with the intent to solve the problem. So I tried [listening with intent to agree], and it worked. I’ve also found a work-around to being a bad listener: I ask questions in writing using email and Google docs. I find it easier to read and re-read than to listen.

What’s the best way to avoid common mistakes in management?

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Financial Misstatements – Sam Altman

First-time startup CEOs make a lot of mistakes, mostly due to ignorance. One particularly bad one is misunderstanding or misusing basic financial terms.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Second Startup Syndrome – Ben’s Blog

Serial entrepreneurs who suffer from Second Startup Syndrome want to skip through the narrow early steps and move quickly to more exciting topics such as long-term strategy, sales and marketing, company positioning, company culture, and more. Unfortunately, when you build a house, it’s usually a very bad idea to start with the roof.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
DIY vs Delegate – AVC

I like it when I see a founder team that is resourceful, has range, and can do a lot of this stuff themselves. I like to see them running lean and mean and spending money on the things that really matter (product!!!!!).
But at some point they need to start delegating this stuff. And first time founders often make the mistake of waiting too long to take things off their plates. For one, they like the control and insights they get from doing thing… (read more)

Sean Ellis (CEO at GrowthHackers)
Figuring Out Your Way to Startup Success

It is OK to apply pressure for better execution of things that have been figured out, but it should be applied very sparingly when trying to encourage the team to figure out the remaining unknowns.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Startup Playbook

Most of the principles on being a good manager are well-covered, but the one that I never see discussed is don’t go into hero mode. Most first-time managers fall victim to this at some point and try to do everything themselves, and become unavailable to their staff. It usually ends in a meltdown. Resist all temptation to switch into this mode, and be willing to be late on projects to have a well-functioning team.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Ones and Twos – Ben’s Blog

When founding CEOs fail, a significant reason why is they never invest the time to be competent enough in the [process design, goal setting, structured accountability, training, and performance management] tasks to direct those activities effectively. The resulting companies become too chaotic to reach their full potential and the CEO ends up being replaced.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Becoming A Boss – AVC

When we had our USV CEO summit last fall, we kicked it off by asking each founder/CEO to open with the one thing they had learned the hard way during the year. The recurring theme was that they had to let the people they hired do the work even though they wanted to jump in and do it themselves. And as they are all going around the room telling this story over and over, I am thinking “”and I want you to jump in and do the work too””. Because these a… (read more)

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Startup advice, briefly – Sam Altman

Learn to manage people. Make sure your employees are happy. Don’t ignore this.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Handing Over Your Company To Someone Else To Manage – AVC

The thing we always remind entrepreneurs is that bringing in a CEO does not mean losing control of the company. In fact, bringing in a CEO is often a great way to keep control of a company if you do it well.

What’s the best way to ask for feedback?

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: Anchoring can sink you

The thing is, we do this outside of negotiation, whenever we ask for insight. If someone says, “”can you review this slide deck?”” there are a bunch of anchors already built in. Anchor: there are slides. Anchor: there are six slides. Anchor: the slides have text on them. Before we can even have a conversation about whether or not there should even be a presentation, or whether the content is worth presenting, we’re already anchored into slides and … (read more)

Geoffrey James (a contributing editor for Inc.com, is an author of the award-winning blog Sales Source)
A Question You Should Ask Every Day | Inc.com

I’ve used this question for decades on people I meet at work, always with excellent results:Just out of curiosity, what do you like best about your job?

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
How would you feel if you were asked to write a self-evaluation like this? | A Founder’s Notebook

Here are the questions I just sent to my direct reports as the first stage of their mid-year review: (a) What’s the thing you’re best at? How much of your time is spent on it? (b) Name one thing you don’t enjoy that you’re spending significant time on. How can we eliminate the need for you to do it? (c) What is your most important work goal, and how should you / we re-organize your time to better achieve it? (d) Which person in the company do yo… (read more)

Jason Stirman (Early Twitter Employee)
How Medium Is Building a New Kind of Company with No Managers | First Round Review

When you sit across a table from someone, ask them “”Whats going on in your life?”” That will always remove more hurdles than asking them “”Whats blocking you at work?””

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
The one question you wish your manager would ask you | A Founder’s Notebook

[Ask] “”what’s your biggest pain point?”” Somehow we / they never do ask.

What’s the best way to ask for a meeting?

Aaron White (Former technology entrepreneur and Co-founder of Boundless)
Want a Coffee? A Brief Guide for Neophytes | Aaron White

When reaching out to ask for a coffee meeting, be immensely specific about why you want to meet, and what you hope to get out if it. The more specific you are, the more value you’ll get from your potential coffee-partner. If you communicate a clear possible path for the conversation, coffee partners who can’t provide value will self-select out, but even then if your ask is clear, it will make it so much easier for them to forward you to the right… (read more)

Scott Britton (Co-Founder of Troops)
How To Ask Someone For a Coffee Meeting

[to send a good email …] 1. Intro context: Give the reader context of who you are and how you found them. It’s always beneficial if the context of how you “found” them demonstrates support, eg. reading their blog. 2. Specific context why you’re reaching out. 3. Recognition that they’re giving you their time: When you signal to them that you acknowledge their time is very limited and valuable, they appreciate it. It indicates that you recognize … (read more)

Roy Bahat (Head at Bloomberg Beta)
Also, Introductions and the “forward intro email”

A good forward intro email: 1. Says why you want to be introduced. 2. Includes its own context — enough about you or your startup so that the receiver understands what’s being asked. Always helpful if it includes what’s special about your startup, increases the likelihood the person will want to meet you. Attach a file if you think it makes sense (a deck, longer summary, screenshot). 3. Uses only as many words as you need — the receiver is going … (read more)