During the past decade of working in the Stockholm tech startup scene, I’ve had the privilege to work with some truly inspiring people. They’ve provided me with some words of wisdom along the way, and some of the quotes have really stuck to my mind. Things that intuitively make sense, but once outspoken it does make a difference. Things that have inspired me both move forward and to take a step back. Things that have helped me to get things done.
Here are 7 wise things great people told me.
“Great ideas come from great input”
One of my previous managers is well-known for his ability to come up with new innovative product ideas. Whilst he was a creative person by nature he says that it is all about what information he decides to consume. You can increase the likelihood of coming up with great ideas by making sure you consume great input - preferably from all sorts of unrelated industries. The more input you take in, the higher the likelihood of coming up with the next groundbreaking idea. So don’t wait for the creativity to come to you, spur it.
“When instructions are unclear, be crystal clear about what you will do”
Ever been in a situation when you have absolutely no idea what is required of you, and what it is that the person who asked you to do something really meant? And you try to get clarity with no luck? As you cannot read thoughts, be super clear about what you are going to do - and what you are not going to do. Unless you get new instructions after that, you can assume you are doing the right thing until further notice.
“When people don’t have time, find out what makes people want to give you time they don’t have”
Like any workplace, there is a constant resource constraint on time. If you are trying to manage a project with no mandates, it can then be hard at times to get things done. To avoid getting in that situation, you then need to take your leadership skills to the next level and figure out what makes people want to help you with your project. If people want to help you, that’s when they will use time they don’t really have.
“When you find it difficult to make a decision, it is often because both are equally good”
When this really hit me, it made decision-making a lot easier. If one choice would have been a lot better than the other, then usually it would be a no-brainer what decision to make. It is usually when it doesn't really matter which decision you make that the decision is difficult. (Note that I am not referring to bigger decisions but regular day to day decisions both in life and at work.) By realising this, you can direct your energy to the big decisions.
“Many of the great leaders have learned to be selectively lazy”
When someone told me this, it dawned on me. At any workplace, time is a scarce resource and you always have to prioritise. What often happens is that you end up with a priority list with an internal order of importance. However, when I heard this statement, it became even more clear. Not only do you have to make a decision on in what order things are the most important, but also do you need to realise what things can actually fall between the cracks. By consciously deciding that even though it would be good to do something it can actually fall, is key to effective leadership. Do what matters the most, and do that pretty awesome.
“You are hired on your strengths, not on your weaknesses”
It is of course always good to continuously improve and work on your own weaknesses, however, it can also be good to remember why you are hired - because of your strengths and to do what you are good at. If you are aware of your weaknesses you know when to bring in someone else and who that should be, so that you can focus on capitalising on your own strengths instead of fighting your own weaknesses.
“You can have great fun with a bottle of vodka, just don’t drink it all at once”
This is metaphorical. Like entrepreneurs and generally energetic people, full of ideas and inspiration, it can be hard to stop as everything is so enjoyable. However, just like you can have fun with a bottle of vodka it can end up too much if you don’t pace yourself. The same thing with ideas and projects - even if you enjoy everything you can’t do it all at once.