My friend and colleague Ben Casnocha has had the good fortune to work closely with LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, co-authoring two books with Reid over the past several years (The Alliance and The Start-Up of You) and working for a time as his chief of staff. Ben recently wrote an essay about his experience: "10,000 Hours with Reid Hoffman: What I Learned."
Ben's essay is remarkable--it's as entertaining to read as it is instructive. It's no accident that Reid has found such great success in life and business. He has learned a lot over the years.
Here are seven of the 16 lessons that Ben highlighted. I highly recommend you read the entire essay to gain the benefit of the others as well.
1. The best way to get a busy person's attention: Help them
While serving as Reid's chief of staff, Ben fielded thousands of requests for his boss's time, attention, or money. However, the vast majority of those requests failed to offer Reid any help in exchange. This is a fatal error. Says Ben, "Help first. Help first. Help first. It's the key to building relationships--even with the ultra successful."
2. Keep it simple and move fast when conceiving strategies and making decisions
As Reid once said, "If you aren't embarrassed by the first version of your product, you shipped it too late." Speed is everything. But being fast requires simplicity. Seek to make the complex simple.
3. Every weakness has a corresponding strength
Ben tells the story of sitting down with Reid to share a self-evaluation of his work--including his goals, strengths, and weaknesses. When Ben began to discuss how he would compensate for particular weaknesses, Reid responded, "Most strengths have corresponding weaknesses. If you try to manage or mitigate a given weakness, you might also eliminate the corresponding strength." Instead of trying to remove your weaknesses, focus on turning your weaknesses into strengths.
4. Reason is the steering wheel. Emotion is the gas pedal
According to Ben, Reid is anything but impulsive. He is deliberate, thoughtful, and restrained. Ben likes to think of reason as the steering wheel and emotions as the gas pedal. Says Ben, "Reid is as good as anyone at steering the wheel in the right direction, and then deploying the right amount of emotional energy in that conscious direction."
5. Tell the truth. Don't reflexively kiss powerful people's asses
It's tempting to tell your boss or other powerful people what you think they want to hear instead of what they need to hear. Don't fall prey to the temptation. Be secure in your relationship, be brave, and always say what you actually think.
6. Respect the shadow power
The circle of assistants, advisers, consultants, and significant others of powerful people wield a lot of power. Be respectful of them and never, ever be rude or condescending. Says Ben, "To be rude to them is to doom your chances at making progress with the man or woman at the center of the circle."
7. Make people genuine partners and they'll work harder
As Ben and Reid say in their book The Start-Up of You, life is a team sport, and anything great in your life will only happen with and through other people. According to Ben, Reid is a master at bringing people together to work on shared projects, and he shares credit generously. Says Ben, "he makes his partners fully credited co-pilots." As a result, they work harder, care more, and the final outcomes are better.