How to Manage Bad Advice and Defeatist Thinking
Tue, 7 Mar 2017, in Psychology
We entrepreneurs are under a lot of pressure these days.
Success isn’t a walk in the park either. Startups grow so fast that they simply don’t have time to correct their course even after they recognize their mistakes. It’s not easy to see why: a business that’s growing quickly tends to get the founder’s hopes up.
A quickly growing business also puts pressure on everyone to perform. Losing speed, relinquishing control and disjointed teams become primary points of concern.
It’s also worth to note the extent of personal bias in managing these growing pains. Managers are human, so they interpret many questions through the prism of their abilities and perspectives:
- How involved should I be?
- How exactly should I scale my business?
- How much structure and siloing is necessary?
Ultimately, one way to face your fears is to take action. By focusing what you can do right now and moving on to the next step, you’re already moving ahead. Action cures fear – so the act doing something reduces stress and anxiety. It also prevents your mind from wandering around excuses and dissecting all the advice you’ve been given.
Know how to filter through advice
Dr. Art Markham from Psychology Today maintains that not all advice is created equal.
It’s important to dissect advice based on what you know to be true. Consider the advisor’s unique experience and motives for giving that advice – as well as your own unique bias in consuming that advice:In order to help yourself take advice, then, you really need to try to take someone else’s perspective when making a decision. You have to realize that you are going to want to stick with your own initial opinion. Rather than looking for advice that agrees with what you already hope to do, try to imagine the situation from the standpoint of someone else.
It’s difficult to put yourself in someone else’s shoes – yet it’s necessary in order to develop listening and perspective-altering skills. These skills will allow you to stay impartial and well-informed when the time comes to take action. When consuming advice, ask yourself the following questions:
1. What is the reason for this advice?
While some people give advice for altruistic reasons, others prefer to promote self-service as a way to find answers themselves.
From review sites to online discussion boards, prospective car owners often get into lengthy debates over which car make, model and trim level to purchase. For example, one potential buyer might be looking for reliability, while another may place more importance on performance or exclusivity of their car. Often conflicting opinions and advice is presented, making it difficult to make the right decision.
That’s because each and every user’s unique perspectives, wants and needs make a huge impact on the advice they give.
2. What is your perspective of this advice?
Just like advice-givers are biased in their recommendations, advice-seekers tend to be more receptive to advice that validates their opinions. As a result you should be aware of your internal biases – most importantly, why you have them in the first place.
Jim Breyer, managing partner of Accel Partners attributes Mark Zuckerberg’s (Facebook CEO) success to being a great listener and quick to experiment different ideas that come to him. He applies the same strategy with advice, quickly digesting and validating it as soon as possible.
It’s precisely this lack of bias and openness to advice that allows him to explore all the possible ways to grow his business.
3. Can you use this advice?
Some people would say or do whatever it takes to get others to do what they want. Does the adviser represent a company? Are there ulterior motives being framed as advice? As the famous saying goes, “trust, but verify”. Perform your own fact-checking before taking what others say to heart.
If you’re trying to collect advice from customers using email, use your help desk to assign tickets to your support help desk. This way, it’s checked, verified and constantly forwarded to the right channels within the company.
This process might be time-consuming, but worth it if leads to uncovering important trends in the process.
Eliminating room for excuses
If there’s something that makes it difficult to move forward, carefully blinding us from what we should be doing and perpetually spinning tires, it’s excuses.
We see excuses everywhere around us. What’s more, they’re seductive and powerful: it’s hard to see yourself as the problem because there are so many external factors out there. Change is difficult because it depends solely on you – it requires making important, painful decisions that no one really wants to make.
1. Are you shifting responsibilities?
It’s much easier to project any sort of shortcoming on anything from abstract ideology (things that end in “ism”), to a lack of resources (be it time, money, geographic location, etc). Chances are none of these are real excuses.
Think about it: why is it easier to buy an annual or monthly gym membership than work with a personal trainer? Gyms push annual memberships because they want you to pay for the whole year. Monthly memberships are slightly better motivators as they show up on your card balance, nudging you to make that trip to the gym.
Yet a personal trainer shows up, waits for you to show up, and then makes you do the work. There’s no escaping it.
2. Are you ready to do the work?
If you’re ready to put in the effort to reach your goal, will your excuse still hold any weight? Going back to the gym example, it’s more difficult to back out and create excuses once you’ve invested yourself with a personal trainer.
One way to find out if you’re ready to do the work is to sign up for a class instead of watching webinars or reading e-books at your own schedule. Invest in a business coach or a consultant instead of thinking that you’ll “make do” with whatever tools you already have. Otherwise, it will be too easy to create imaginary obstacles preventing you from moving forward.
3. What happens when you’re out of excuses?
It’s too dangerous, too expensive, there’s no time. While your mind can generate an endless supply of excuses, some may certainly be more convincing than others.
But what happens when they all stop being so convincing? What if one day you look around you and see so many people succeeding with their businesses that the excuse “9/10 business fail” isn’t valid anymore? What if taking that foreign language class isn’t an inconvenience because you’ve got the time, the energy and your friend from abroad is coming to visit you in a few months?
Getting past these setbacks
When you start off small, you’re vulnerable. During this time it’s easy to get overwhelmed by bad advice and fall prey to excuses. It’s also difficult to anticipate certain outcomes and you’re more vulnerable to unpredictability.
As companies grow and develop, they are faced with a different set or problems. They’re worried about the death of spontaneity, their flexibility, their unique “team culture”, getting out of touch with user feedback… so more uneasy choices and heavy constraints are placed upon them.
Of course, it would be nice to drive out in the horizon without thinking whether or not someone filled up the tank. Yet the responsibility of doing the dirty work – the difficult choices and the important motivation has to come from somewhere.