E 104: The Power of an Informational Interview

E 104: The Power of an Informational Interview

This is probably the most overlooked area. We tend to think about interviews in terms of getting a job. How about gathering information that really provides great insights.  I used informational interviews everywhere, not just in podcast recordings. I use this approach everywhere. I use it to build new relationships, to ask for advice & guidance, build networks and it truly helps one see different dimensions and aspects about a particular topic.

It’s an approach that Management consultants have perfected. How many times have you heard “We hired consultants and they just validated everything that we knew.” The difference is that the management consultants go in to chat with people with the intent of gaining information & valuable insights to a particular area and they compare it with other companies/individuals that have faced similar situations/obstacles and/or challenges. 

Management consultants often refer to this as discovery questions. There are no shortage of reasons to use this approach.  

Here are a few typical use cases:

  • When you start a new department or company, you want to meet some of the key players (also known as stakeholders) to understand the current challenges in the environment. It provides us insights of what these individuals expect of us. Another ‘AHA’ moment

 

  • When you have a new business idea or potential concept, many of the innovators on the CanInnovate podcast told us that one of the greatest sources of information. They were able to test whether their idea was a problem or opportunity that others would pay for. Providing insights into their potential go to market, their target market, their key messaging and so on. It provides them with such valuable feedback that allows them to fine tune their business idea and potentially gain a few early adopters.

 

  • When you’re looking into jobs and want to know about company culture. What a great tool to use to dive in to understand more about the company. People really enjoy talking about the pros and cons of their company, as its an extension of their values.

 

  • Inspiration & Curiosity. You meet someone that is brilliant and would like to know more about them. They have gotten your attention and you’re curious to know more about them and their journey. Maybe it’s just because you are looking for a little bit of ‘juice’ for inspiration.

All of these different uses, give you an additional benefit. You will get collaboration and actually develop relationships.  People that you’ve engaged, will want to be part of your journey. They are a little bit invested in your success. In my book, Connect The Dots: Turn Strangers into Meaningful Network Relationships, I talk about the study that confirms a positive link between asking for a small favour. It’s called the Ben Franklin effect! 

The reason why I wanted to talk about the informational interview, was because this is also part of the overall design thinking principles. Asking “What If’, experimenting and testing early, hearing and understanding (Human Empathy) gathering feedback early in the process, focusing on the user experience mindset and most of all, collaboration. Information Interviews really enables you to humanize the problem/situation and possibly identify additional opportunities by TALKING!

There is no shortage of benefits of using information interviews. But, you know me – I like to get tactical.

  • Plan: What do you want to learn about or discover? What is the context the purpose – put together 3-4 questions. Don’t forget that you may need to break down questions into smaller questions to reframe questions. Think like a journalist. You’re just getting information and looking for little clues. Don’t forget to prepare a little mini-intro about you & what is the objective for the meeting. 

  • Warm Up: Meet the person and make sure that you take a few minutes to do some warm up questions. Getting to know them. People love talking about themselves. You can ask about how did they get into this field, or what does a day typically look like for them or talk about a hot industry topics. Just make sure you take the time to warm up the conversation. 

  • Conduct:  Conducting the informational interview. Be open to go off script. This is a big challenge for people. The idea is to pick up clues, not to be perspective. You’re trying to discover what you don’t know. 

  • Thank you: I cannot express this enough. We need to take a few minutes to say thank you and be grateful for the time. I did an entire blog post about the value of gratitude. I’ll add it to the show notes. Send a handwritten note or email. Just to thank them for their time and the value that they provided. Do NOT ask for favours.  You’re just starting to build relationships. You can touch base with them, throughout your journey and give them a little bit of an update.

One thing that I’ve learned, is that people want to genuinely help. However, they also want to know specifically what it is that you want. We get so many requests for our time, so we need to prioritize. Don’t ask for 4 hours of their time, ask for 25-30 minutes over coffee and BE SPECIFIC. “I’d like to learn from you, about what it’s like working as a Business Analyst at Company XYZ” or “I’d like to get your advice and perspective, of how to get more hands on experience with Blockchain technology”. 

Information Interviews is another essential business life skill. I’ve got some freebies for you.

I hope you found this helpful and useful. I look forward to hearing from you. Feel free to share the content with others and leave comments. I love feedback.

 

Best Always,
Sapna 

FREEBIE ALERT! 

Connect the Dots Companion Workbook.  To help put your networking and objectives into perspective. This workbook will help you identify who in your network to engage and more importantly, how to engage and what are some topics that you want to talk about.  This will help provide you the basis, for your informational interviews.

 

Other links: 

Importance of Gratitude

3 steps to a perfect informational interview

How to get the most out of an informational interview

#FutureProof Course

Learn management consulting timeless secrets that will always keep you ahead of the curve.

Connect the Dots:

How to turn strangers into meaningful network relationships.

Cheat sheet:

Optimize the networking benefits with less effort? Less effort, More results and so much more.

E94: Breakthrough Success: Achieving Greatness In Business & Life with Marc Guberti

E94: Breakthrough Success: Achieving Greatness In Business & Life with Marc Guberti

Marc Guberti is a USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author with over 100,000 students in over 180 countries enrolled in his online courses. He is the host of the Breakthrough Success Podcast and Radio Show where listeners learn how to achieve their breakthroughs. He coaches content creators on how they can attract more traffic to their content and boost revenue. An Author of 23 books, including his newly published Breakthrough Success: Achieving Greatness In Business & Life (Grow Your Influence Series Book 4)

Episode Overview:

 

I just had to do it. I needed to get Marc Guberti on the podcast and I’m so glad that I did.

He’s an absolute inspirational gem! He started his business at the age of 11 and ten years later, he’s on top of the world with his books/podcasts/online courses/summits. I had to dig in deeper and learn from the Master himself.

We hit so many topics:

  • How he got started at the age of 11
  • I even ask if he faced age discrimination
  • How he made me look at my 10 year old niece a little differently
  • Some productivity tips, especially if you’re Serial Juggler Occupation
  • Favourite person that he met
  • How his book – Breakthrough Success that is about to be released, is already on the Amazon Best Seller list one month BEFORE his actual book launch!
  • So much more

 

Books Mentioned:

 

Resource Mentioned:

Marc Guberti's podcast episode 16 and episode 292 with Seth Godin

 

Connect with Marc:

MarcGuberti.com | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Instagram | YouTube

 

#FutureProof Course

Learn management consulting timeless secrets that will always keep you ahead of the curve.

Connect the Dots:

How to turn strangers into meaningful network relationships.

Cheat sheet:

Optimize the networking benefits with less effort? Less effort, More results and so much more.

E90: What marketers should know about positioning with April Dunford

E90: What marketers should know about positioning with April Dunford

We have the brilliant & talented April Dunford on the podcast today. She’s a much sought-out international speaker on the topics of Positioning, Market Strategy and New Product Introduction. April is a positioning consultant. 7 successful technology startups and 3 global tech giants, over 16 products and more. She knows how to make magic happen & she’s sharing these secrets in her new book called ‘Obviously Awesome – how to nail product position, so customers get it, buy it and love it!”

(more…)

8 Time Management Hacks

8 Time Management Hacks

 

I got a great question the other day, regarding how I manage my time. They were looking for some best practices. Truth be told, each person manages their time very differently. However, I recognize that we need a starting point of a routine in order to tweak it make it our own personal best practice. So, here is how I organize & prioritize things.

 

 

  1. The EVERYTHING List

 

I’m a little old school. I need to write down ALL my to-dos. Both personal and professional. I need to see everything. It’s kind of like Marie Kondo‘s purging tips. If you don’t know Marie Kondo, then you’re missing out. She’s is the queen of household organization. She’s even on Netflix, which many people are binging! One of her tips is to take out everything to see what you have. I have the same philosophy about my action items. I write down EVERYTHING, so that I can see what it left to be done. Just a big brain dump of everything both personal and professional.

 

Gather your items in one place to get an accurate grasp of what you have.

 

It really helps to get it all out of your system and just write it all down.  It’s a living list, which will continue to change.  I’m traditional, so I use pen and paper.  However, there are tonnes of great digital tools that are FREE… EvernoteWunderlustTodoist, TrelloGoogle Keep and many others.

 

2. The Art of Prioritization:

 

Fear not… we are going to create a simple roadmap of how to make this more manageable. Marie Kondo, may ask the question “Does it bring you joy”, that question isn’t relevant here.  I always go back to an oldie but goldie.. Stephen R. Covey’s – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People : Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.

 

One of his key matrix breaks things into 4 categories.  Classifying each action item into Urgent/Not Urgent and then if it’s Important or Not Important.

 

Your step here is to take each of those activities and classify them in one of those 4 boxes. What I actually do, is classify each task under each of these categories. My to-do list is a written one, so I actually highlight each item in my notebook to match the category. What is interesting is that it really helps us focus and identify which are the time wasters.

 

There are so many value bombs in this book. Others may have renamed his matrix in order to re-brand it, but the skeleton of success that still after many decades is a powerful tool. This book should be part of everyone’s toolkit. I actually have the matrix on the wall, in front of my desk to remind me to think a little logically.

 

3. Eliminate the time wasters 

 

Those time wasters, you get rid of them! Ta-da! What a great quick win.   The time wasters are in the category of not urgent and not important. Some examples could be, going through responding to some emails, watching TV (or in my case.. re-binging on Game of Thrones.. can’t help it).  I get so many emails asking me for meetings or coffees. If there are emails that just say that “Hi Sapna, I’d like to meetup for coffee” and there is no objective of the meeting or I can’t see any value to the meeting. I put those emails at the bottom of the correspondence list.

 

3. Negotiate or Eliminate 

 

The ones that are Urgent and Not-Important – you need to re-review that list. Some of those items may be disguised as urgent.  I’d ask the question for these items. What would happen if I didn’t do it. What would the impact be?  If it is an activity that must be done, I’d ask this question “When is the latest that I need complete this by?” It’s a powerful question and sometimes, people’s requests seem urgent and then when you ask them.

 

“What is the latest date that I can get this back to you on?”,

 

 

It might turn out to be in 2-3 weeks. Sometimes, some of these activities are just to manage people’s expectations. It’s an easy question to ask and justify. You can easily explain that I want to give this activity my full attention and I’m just trying to balance and re-prioritize the work. It’s an easy negotiation and 85% of the time, the other person will say “Any chance I can get in back by the end of two weeks?”. 

What a win!  Plus, you are positioning it that you recognize the importance of the key activity, however you want to ensure that you have adequate time to perform your necessary due diligence. It just shows a level of professionalism and maturity.

 

4. Important Categories (the top left & right quadrant)

These are the most important ones.. hence the title. The urgent ones goes higher in the list than the non-urgent. But, wow.. how does that make you feel? that you basically managed to eliminate quite a few items from your list.  However, it’s hard to see the forest from the trees some times. Are all these timelines intersecting and hitting at the same time? Don’t worry..

I got you!

 

5. Calendar Visual

 

Take all the urgent & important  items and put them in a calendar. Something that you can visually look at, that way you can see where and when the bulk of the activities are clustering together.  Now, add in the important and not urgent items on the calendar. Pro-tip: I tend to put these two in different colours. That way I can easily and visually distinguish them.

 

6. Break It Down

 

Let’s be honest.. some activities are fairly large. I tend to break them down into smaller components and even smaller components if it is an activity that I’m dreading doing.

 

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

 

This is a well known-saying. We are human. There are some activities that we are happy to procrastinate and delay for as long as possible. I break those items down even into smaller sub-tasks.

 

7.  Power of 3 

 

This is something that I’ve learned with experience.  I can only actually accomplish three (3) things per day. If I write down 10, I’ll still only accomplish 3 or maybe 4 of them. Then I feel like a failure for not accomplishing the goals for the day.  So, I only write down 3 things a day.  Let’s be honest, things come up and we have to deal with them. Some opportunities won’t wait.

So, we definitely want to have flexibility to be able to do that while we continue to work towards our own important activities.

Another thing is, that I try to batch like items together (in groups of 3).  For example, if I have 3 blogs to write, I do it on the same day. I try to batch similar items together, so that I can keep in that head space and continue with that grove.

 

8. Eat Your Frogs First

 

This is my favorite gem of a best practices… Out of the 3 items that I wrote down for the day. I do the activity that I dread the most or don’t want to do. I just get it over and done with.. I treat myself to a great cup of coffee, put in my headphones and tackle it, like a pro!

 

“Eat Your Frogs First”

 

Next thing you know, it’s done.  And, it really increases my confidence and enables me to finish the other two activities.

This is how I plan and manage my time. I hope this helps. It provides a baseline for something that you can try and then, you can tweak it based on your preferences.  Then you’ll have your own best practice.

Would love to hear your thoughts and if you have any other tips. I’m always looking for ways to improve my game!

Best Always,
Sapna

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