When we started 21Tanks almost a decade ago, we had no products, all we had was perspective. Yup, perspective. Knowledge that we’d acquired over the years (that we thought was valuable) and a network of smart people to help us along the way. How’d we get work? Well, most of the time, people just asked if we could help. And we did.
Asking for something is a basic form of guidance and assistance, but most people – I’ve found – struggle with this very simple concept. Me? I’m an asker. Harnessing the views from different perspectives is one of the most powerful platforms anyone can make use of. So last week I sent a few emails to a select few CEOs I know, respect and admire from around the world, and asked them one simple question: What one piece of advice would you give me to ensure the success of my new role at Missing Link?
The result? I was blown away. Not only by the content – which was focussed toward self, simplicity and sticking to your guns – but also by the number of responses. I know that people who run organisations are extremely busy, so I wasn’t expecting them to respond immediately, but they did. Almost all of them. 3 of them even responded within 5 minutes of receiving the mail.
Just by asking, I learnt a great deal from smart people who’ve learnt from the smart people before them, who learnt from the smart people before them, and so it goes.
The Power of the Ask is extraordinary.
Which leads me to the second reason for writing this post. I wanted to learn from people who have been doing this for a long time, to tap into their centre and understand what makes a successful CEO.
What did I learn?
1. Even busy people are never too busy to share one solid piece of advice with someone who’s brave enough to ask.
2. The key to success is not the Victory Condition or the organisation’s BHAG. Neither is it the strategy that fulfils them. Are they important? Of course. But what guides them, and the business, are the key lessons I received from my ask (categorised into three simple tricks):
- Stay humble and true to yourself.
- Keep things simple. For you and your people.
- Be bold. Stick to your plan. Fail, learn, do it again.
To the generous few who shared their insights, thank you again for your time. And thank you for helping me take a step back and remember what’s truly important when leading a team.
To you reading this: If there’s something you’ve been meaning to ask someone, possibly afraid of the result, just ask. The answer, no matter the result, is the next step forward.
Originally posted as an article on LinkedIn.