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TODAY’S STORY
21 Oct
,
2022

Don't succumb to imposed limits.


As a manager, you will get asked for feedback and advice from your teammates multiple times a day.

And here's the thing you need to understand about questions people ask:

Any question has an inherent constraint and limit imposed on it by the questioner.

I repeat.

Any question has an inherent constraint and limit imposed on it by the questioner.

And it's super easy to accept the limits that are implied and work within those when anyone asks us for advice or feedback.

"Hey Aditya, can you check this email to see if the tone is okay?"

Now, you can only offer feedback on the tone and leave it at that. But if you really care, you would go beyond the tone and check if the thing being talked about and the frame of the message is correct in the first place.

Or even better, if you're out of the loop, you can start by asking the most piercing question:

"Why are we sending this email? What outcome are we trying to achieve here?"

See, there are generally two ways of giving advice.

You can stay limited to fixing typos and grammatical errors.

Or

You can question a level or two deeper: question the structure, question the overall message, question the need for that piece of writing in the first place.

What often separates those who rise up to strategic roles and earn with their judgment and decision-making skills versus those who stay as individual contributors and earn with their execution ability is that they always go beyond what is asked of them and offer feedback at the exact level of analysis it merits, and not necessarily at the level at which it was sought.

Practice Socratic questioning.

And by that, I mean ask "Why?" repeatedly till you get to the root of the problem.

Common advice is to ask "Why?" 5 times in succession. I think that is too much and you will turn existential at the fourth or fifth why.

Here's an example:

"Aditya, should I do an MBA?"

"Why do you want to do an MBA?"

"Because I think it will lead me to better opportunities."

"Why do you think an MBA will lead you to better opportunities?"

"Because it will teach me business concepts that will help me be a good manager."

"Why do you want to be a manager? Why not become a brilliant IC instead?"

"Because as a manager, I will get higher pay."

If I ask one more why here, the person will probably say he needs to survive and is afraid of death. Not very helpful, and frankly, a bit too much for the scope of the conversation.

(Also, managers receiving higher pay is not necessarily true today and great ICs can earn just as much as managers in many industries. But that's a topic for another day.)

So, yeah. Asking 5 Whys always isn't important.

Just ask yourself one or two more 'Whys' than you're used to and that'll lead you to significantly better outcomes in the long term. You will land on tactics that will get you to where you wish to go faster and much more effectively.

Not shilling Stoa as a more effective alternative to an MBA here, but yes, shilling Stoa anyway. It is what it is.

But the point is...

If you were asked for feedback on a landing page, but you feel that this product doesn't need a landing page at all and it would actually be a better use of the other person's time to focus on other marketing channels, you should say that instead of trying to improve the landing page.

While giving feedback, focus on the larger forest, not the trees — unless you know that the forest is good and it is the trees that need some fixing!

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