“How might we…”

Here’s a little change that can have a big impact. Try it. It works.

You will literally never hear him say, “I can’t.” He uses more constructive versions of that sentiment that emphasize the possible, such as “I could if I…”

…IDEO’s favorite antidote to negative speech patterns is the phrase “How might we…?” It was introduced to us by Charles Warren, now salesforce.com’s senior vice president of product design, as an op­timistic way of seeking out new possibilities in the world….In three disarmingly simple words, it captures much of our perspective on creative groups. The “how” suggests that improvement is always possible. The only question remain­ing is how we will find success. The word “might” temporarily lowers the bar a little. It allows us to consider wild or improbable ideas instead of self-editing from the very beginning, giving us more chance of a breakthrough. And the “we” establishes own­ership of the challenge, making it clear that not only will it be a group effort, but it will be our group.

My EOx talk on empowerment, trust, and freedom in the workplace

EOx is a quarterly event put on by the Atlanta chapter of Entrepreneurs Organization. They invite entrepreneurs to give a brief talk on “entrepreneurial ideas worth sharing.”

Outside of Forum, EOx is my favorite EO event, and I was honored to have the opportunity to speak to this crowd. Joining me at the podium that night were Robert Dreesch, Benjamin Rudolph, and Reid Smith-Vaniz of Reliant Technology (one of my forum mates). Last quarter, two other forum mates shared their stories: CBQ of Big Nerd Ranch and Sean Cook of ShopVisible. Set aside an hour, and listen to what they have to say.

For my talk, I decided to share the short version of how our company switched from a rather conventional organizational path to the path we’re on today. To pack it into eight minutes, I left out a ton of stuff, but I tried to hit all the high points. Let me know what you think!

Speakeasy deserves some special thanks. They are one of EO’s sponsors and helped all the presenters (me especially) avoid looking and sounding like complete fools. ATV hosted us, and Friendly Human aced the video production.

Think Local: Yeoman Entrepreneurs & The Leaders They Lean On

Branson, Jobs, Pink, Hsieh, Collins, Moore, Lencione, Maslow, Chouinard. I learn a lot from these titans of industry and philosophers of organizational behavior. They inspire me to set my sights on high mountain peaks, and I’m grateful for their willingness to share their stories and insights in books, blogs, articles, interviews, and social media.

But the entrepreneurs and leaders who help me most – the people who take the time to think about my situation, who know my disposition, and who share their own relevant experiences to help me move farther, faster, higher, and stronger – are a close network of local folks that you wouldn’t know from Adam. These yeoman entrepreneurs and leaders are actually in my arena, and they are marred by the same dust and sweat and blood as I am.

A few groups that I lean on:

  1. My Entrepreneurs Organization Forum. We get together once a month for a formal meeting, plus some other less formal meetings here and there. My forum mates know pretty much everything about my business, and in helping me to develop, they learn new things about themselves and their businesses as well.
  2. SaaS Day. Every three to six months, I get together with about eight other SaaS entrepreneurs to discuss a handful of issues that relate to our businesses. Before our meeting, we’ll zero in on two or three topics, and then have a formal conversation about them. Topics range from how to handle support requests, to recruiting, to pricing strategy.
  3. ROWE Lunches. I know about a half dozen other Atlanta entrepreneurs who are building empowered work environments. Every so often, we’ll get together for a casual lunch in which we share the challenges we face and the manner in which we overcome them.

Meetups offer similar opportunities, but there’s a lot to be said for the familiarity and candor that happens in a small, selective, tight-knit talented group of people.

Forums and roundtables aren’t just for business owners. Some of the members of our team have recently started building their own close networks of accomplished peers: Our marketers created a marketing roundtable with a handful of other B2B marketing leaders, and our head of sales is constantly reaching out to other heads of sales to see how they’re building their operations and share the lessons he’s learned along the way.

Learning from others’ experiences is one of my favorite things about entrepreneurship (and life!), and I’m grateful to all the wonderful people who are willing to share their stories and counsel. Who are the people you lean on to help you develop personally and professionally?