How to Have An Opinion

curious-cat

Photo Credit: peterned via Compfight cc

My political opinions generally sway to the left, but more than anything they are based on the facts I know about just a few topics. It’s a big, confusing world out there. So, I sink my efforts into knowing the hell out of a few things and vote accordingly.

This also impacts how I talk about politics. If I don’t know a ton about a topic, I’m less inclined to take a strong opinion about it if it comes up in conversation.

Confidence and Opinions

This post isn’t about politics.

It’s about confidence, expressing opinions, and how we communicate with each other in startups.

Prior to consulting, the companies I worked for were all very different. However, one common theme was that everyone I worked with had strong opinions about how things should be done.

I, on the other hand, had strong opinions about a couple of things I knew really really well. Everything else? I was open to hearing other people’s ideas and testing things as we went along. I liked to listen first and gather information before sharing my point of view.

I childishly assumed everyone took the same approach to expressing opinions that I did. By them expressing strong opinions, I also thought this meant they knew what they were talking about.

But this isn’t always the case.

Other people, especially guys, were just more comfortable expressing opinions even if they weren’t totally sure about the thing they were suggesting.

Here’s the clincher: They weren’t even aware of that uncertainty because of one very important difference between them and me: Confidence.

Consulting

After years of this, I started consulting. In consulting, among other things, you make a living by coming into a company with a strong point of view about what needs to get done.

I’ve quickly learned how to share opinions, how to communicate when I’m still developing them, and how to rely on past experiences to develop those points of view more quickly.

Here are some tips that may help you do the same:

How to Express an Opinion…

1)…when you think everyone else is going to disagree

Explain where you’re coming from.

This is something you have to get used to as a marketer in early stage tech startups. Usually, no one else besides you comes from a marketing background. So, you’re potentially optimizing for different things than everyone else in the room. Back into your explanations of opinions by explaining where you are coming from. A lot of times, disagreements can be resolved when the source of it is identified and handled.

2) …when you don’t know what to do

Rely on past experiences. 

Gut instinct is strengthened over time. Past experiences inform future decisions. Even if you haven’t been in this specific situation before, it’s probable that the situation reminds you of something you have experienced before. You can share those stories and experiences to explain your points of view.

3) ….when you’re still researching

Tell people you’re collecting information, and tell them what information you’re collecting. 

Listening to others is a great way to research and form a sound opinion, but it isn’t an excuse to stay quiet during a meeting. Make it a point to speak up and share that you are there to listen to other people’s ideas. Be specific about what information you’re hoping to get while you listen. This may help other people address those things during the conversation and help the entire group come to a decision more quickly.

Silence can be read as incompetence, so you have to be proactive about communicating what you’re listening for.

On the other hand, you may be pressed for an opinion before you feel you have enough data to back up that opinion. In that case, try this phrase: “Given what we know so far, I think we should do ____. However, I think we should collect more data/do XYZ before making a final decision.”

4) …when you genuinely don’t care either way

Say so.

Mindless debates are a part of office culture. Some personality types are less inclined to argue for the sake of it. However, not having a point of view can be read as incompetence. So express what side of an issue you lean toward slightly, but also share that you don’t feel too strongly and would be happy to go with someone else’s suggestion. Being prepared to admit that you don’t feel too strongly about something can give you the confidence to share your more subtle points of view and still assert competence.

5) ….when you’re put on the spot

Develop a point of reference. 

Think hard about the underlying thing that drives the points of view you do feel strongly about, and let that guide your opinions. For example, I generally think most ideas we debate in startups can be tested. It’s usually possible to come up with a version of an idea that can be tested on a small scale. I usually suggest something along these lines. Having this point of reference has helped me form opinions and make decisions more quickly.

 Hopefully this all makes sense and helps someone out there. Have a, dare I say it, opinion about this? ;P

Let me know in the comments.

When it Comes to Startup Metrics, Focus on Big Rocks

Lately I’ve been helping clients set up metrics-driven processes for marketing.

This is different for every company, of course, but the more I go through this the more I firmly believe one thing – You have to be careful what metrics you track.

I say this because what you measure determines how you spend your time and how you perceive your progress. These are two very important things for an employee and the company that employee works for.

Little Rocks and Big Rocks

Increasing the open rate on your startup’s newsletter by 20% sounds great. If there are ten people on that list, who cares? [Read more...]

Should Early Stage Startups Have Marketing?

This op-ed by Jessica Livingston about why startups should focus on sales, not marketing, has gotten a lot of chatter recently. Given that I’m working with several early stage startups on marketing right now, I figured I should offer my perspective.

My hope is that for founders, this post helps you decide if you should hire a marketer. For marketers, I hope this helps you decide if you should accept a job offer as a first marketing hire, and helps show you what you should focus on. [Read more...]

Progress

To catch you up if you missed my post from last week, I’m off into a new career direction of consulting.

I was so overwhelmed with gratitude for all of the messages of support, and somewhat surprised to hear from many others that they struggle with similar “self-branding” issues.

In my last post I promised to share my process with you. I tried a number of different methods to refine my offering, and some worked better than others.

Here’s what I’ve got so far. [Read more...]

How to Get Better Feedback

A few months ago Kristin, Pam, Liz and I started Marketing on the Rocks – a new marketing blog. I’ve been writing there once a month, so you should follow along and read our posts! Below is a snack-size portion of my latest one. Read the complete post here.

Whether it’s just another quick set of eyes on a blog post or a deep conversation about your career direction, getting great advice can be really helpful. It can even be life-changing. At first blush, feedback may seem like something you take as it comes to you. But there are some things you can do to proactively get the help and advice you need to improve your work.

1) Distance Yourself From The Work

Taking ownership and responsibility is much different than taking everything to heart and associating your self-worth with your job. This is essential for startup employees in particular to understand. To join a startup, a certain level of passion or at least personal interest is necessary in order to choose a risky, fledgling business over stable corporate life. But to incorporate people’s feedback into the projects you do at that startup, you need to balance your heart with your head and take an objective approach. A mental distance between you and the work impacts how you ask for feedback and how you receive feedback. [Read more...]

Career and Life Update, the Sequel

As you could tell from my last post, I was in a career transition mode in December. I’m excited to share that I officially joined One Mighty Roar to lead marketing for our Internet of Things platform, Robin.

One Mighty Roar began as a digital marketing agency. Through client work we developed a few different products. One of the products was technology for connected experiences, so now we are rolling those capabilities out into a spin-off Internet of Things platform called Robin. We launch this spring and you can sign up for our beta here, although I think the audience that reads this blog would be more interested in just learning about the Internet of Things and subscribing to our blog. [Read more...]

Career and Life Update

By now, the 12 of you who read this blog have heard about my next career steps. But just in case there is a 13th or 14th person who hasn’t been texted, emailed or joined me for coffee or wine over the past few weeks – here is your update.

I’m no longer at Localytics. I’m doing some marketing consulting right now as I re-energize, explore and figure out my next career steps. In particular, I’m excited to be working with the awesome people at One Mighty Roar on all things marketing. If your company needs help with content strategy, messaging or anything else (I’m well-rounded) – reach out! If I’m not a fit for a project I’ll try to introduce you to someone who is. [Read more...]

9 Tips for Managing a Website Redesign

At Localytics I managed a big company rebrand and website redesign. We launched this in conjunction with new pricing, a new UI and three big new features. (We were busy!) It’s been a few months since the site launched in August, and the time has helped me process the experience and consolidate my thoughts into some website redesign tips.

Ready? Okay.

1) Identify the Website Redesign Decision Makers

Many people will have opinions about a redesign. However, it’s not realistic to have an entire company chime in on every little decision. First, you need to narrow down the feedback team, identify the key representatives from each department and strategically involve those people in the right conversations. Second, to ensure the decision-making process goes as smoothly as possible, you need determine whose opinion and approval is nice to have and whose opinion and approval is a must-have. [Read more...]

Moving From a Small Startup to a Bigger Startup

Most of my few readers know by now that I’ve moved on to a new gig as the Content Marketing Manager at Localytics, an app analytics and marketing company.

At 40 people, this is a bigger company than Shareaholic was. I wanted to reflect a little on the experience of working at different sizes of companies, as I’ve now worked at 6-10 person, 40-person and 300-something person companies.

[Read more...]