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Stop Being the Wizard of Oz

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It’s actually amazing how many in-person conversations we have in a week. In fact, Jonah Berger famously reported that only a mere 7% of word of mouth interactions happen online.

That’s incredible, but what’s more incredible to me is how often we try to avoid in-person conversations when they are actually the holy grail of ideas, input, and inspiration.

In fact, you may be interested to know that a good majority of my article titles come from something somebody said that made me think, “that would be a great article.” Recent examples would be “The Only Job is All the Jobs” when talking with Dennis from Proximity Space and “Sometimes Late, Sometimes Sloppy, But Done,” when speaking to a member at a client’s workspace.

I find a great deal of insight in the little phrases people repeatedly say to others. They are like self-proclaimed idioms that attest to the lessons a person has learned and the vices a person struggles with on an ongoing basis. These little nuggets of insight only come out in conversations, and often only during in-person conversations.

So it’s no wonder that actively engaging in conversation with colleagues, members, and customers is the best way to get to know them. And to get to know a person is the only way to understand what they need and desire.

So how could anybody run a business without constantly, meaningfully engaging in conversations with the people whom they aim to serve?

They can’t. You can’t. I can’t.

And trust me, I’ve tried. I used to be the “ops guy.” I was obsessed with systems and shied away from the emotional labor of truly connecting with people. It wasn’t until I sent a really shitty email to a group of members that I woke up from this delusion.

Not only are human conversations necessary from the very beginning, they are incredibly enlightening. They literally tell you exactly what you need to know to be a better leader, create better content, and cultivate a better community space. What’s more, they make people trust you. Do you really want to be the Wizard of Oz, hiding behind your curtain, pretending you’re more important and powerful than you really are?

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Right now, email a member you haven’t met or one you don’t know very well and ask them to grab lunch with you. Just you two. I think you’ll be surprised by your conversation.


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