While most of us don't try to be assholes, there are certain things we can do that take us down that road fairly quickly.
Here are a few of them.
1. Disparage Others on a Group Email Chain
I have been appalled recently to witness well-educated, grown adults (many with masters degrees and even PhDs), publicly disparage each other via the dreaded "reply all" button on a group email chain. Snide comments, harsh criticism, and public shaming - aired as dirty laundry for a chain of 50 or so people to see.
Before wading into the dark waters of disparaging group emails, I invite you to ask yourself:
- Should this be a "reply all" or just a "reply?"
- Would I proudly say what I'm about to type, in person?
- Should this be a conversation or a phone call instead of an email?
- Is this reply constructive and helpful?
- Will I be proud of the virtual footprint that this email chain leaves?
- Would I feel good about my (kids, partner, friends, loved ones) seeing this email?
- Is this email nurturing, or damaging, relationships?
- Have I walked away, breathed, paused, and thought about what I'm about to say before hitting "send?"
Spend some time reflecting on these questions before hitting "reply" and certainly before hitting "reply all." I promise, you'll be happy that you did.
2. Ask for a Favor, and Neglect to Say Thank You Once the Favor is Complete
I recently heard from someone who I hadn't heard from in about 7 years. He was a colleague who I had worked with for a short period of time. He asked for career advice, as he was looking to make a transition. I spent about an hour putting together a long, thoughtful email which included suggestions; resources and links; companies in the area to check out; and the best round-up of virtual support I could put together for his situation.
I heard nothing.
My two cents: when you ask someone for a favor and they go out of their way to help you, say thank you. At minimum, send an email or a text. Better yet, send a hand-written note. While I believe in abundance and I believe in holding a perspective of generosity for all that I do, I also believe in manners. Show some manners, and send a simple thank you.
Note: if you ask for a favor during a time of crisis - dealing with loss, dealing with grief, or from a place where you are focused on meeting your basic human needs, you are exempt from this rule.
3. Ask someone, "Can I Pick Your Brain?" when Brain Picking is Not the Appropriate Action
The first few years of my business, I said yes to "can I pick your brain?" meetings very regularly. I'd hear from people who (similar to the above situation) I hadn't heard from in years, who wanted to "pick my brain over coffee." Wanting to be helpful, and genuinely desiring to be of service, I said yes. When we arrived at the coffee shop, I frequently learned that they specifically wanted to pick my brain on "how to start a business that looks exactly like yours." Often they used these words.
Again - I'm all about abundance. I'm all about generosity. And I genuinely desire to serve others who are following their purpose in the world.
And, to ask for someone's time, energy, and free advice so that you can go replicate their business as your own (which several of these people did, following our meetings - and who, in a few extreme cases, actually copied and pasted text directly from my website onto their own), is simply not cool. Additionally, by intentionally starting a business that "looks exactly like someone else's," we miss out on finding our own unique voice, our own unique purpose, and our own unique Why.
Before asking for a "pick your brain" meeting, I recommend asking yourself:
- What does "pick your brain" really mean to me? Am I trying to use this in place of what should be time with a paid professional to figure out the strategy and core offerings of my future business? Side Note: I personally hate the term "pick your brain." If I want help with the strategy and core offerings for my business, I call my coach (who I pay) or my executive mentor (who I pay). If I want legal advice, I call my lawyer (who I pay). If I want free advice, I check out the SBDC or the many other resources available online.
- Have I taken time to think about what feels authentic and true for me? Before looking at what everyone else is doing, have I taken time to get quiet, go inward, and think about what I want for my business? As I often talk about, we need to stop looking around and start looking within. This needs to be the first step in starting any new business, any new offering, and any new endeavor.
- Am I offering to buy someone a $3 cup of coffee when instead I should be asking to hire them for an hour of the services that they actually provide? Have a heart to heart with yourself. And proceed accordingly.
- What is my intention for this meeting? Am I clear on what I desire for the meeting? Too often, I see new entrepreneurs identify "meet with XYZ entrepreneur to pick their brain" as an early step in starting their business. When asked what they want to get from the meeting with XYZ entrepreneur, they say, "I don't know." This is a waste of everyone's time.
All of that said, there are some great reasons to ask someone for coffee, which include: getting to know someone better; connecting and sharing; catching up; learning more about their business so that you can effectively point people their way; and simply enjoying a cup of coffee together. While the list of reasons to ask someone to coffee are many, "picking your brain" will not be one on my list.
What do you think? Are there any items you'd add to the "things that are uncool" list? Or do you have thoughts on any of the items above? I'd love to hear from you.