Let me guess; you admire a leader and want to get together with them to “pick their brain”. You want to extract their best info, insider secrets and tips on how to get where they are.
It’s a sound plan, but here’s the problem; dozens of others want to pick their brain also. And because they’re experiencing some level of success they have to continue to give their best energy to their work. They value their time, and they’re already influencing others. You are literally asking them to not influence others for a time so they can influence you. This isn’t free for them; you’re asking them to invest in you.
Getting focused time with amazing leaders has been a game changer for me. It has unlocked new opportunities, given me fresh ideas and clarified next steps. There may be no better way to grow your capacity than digging deep with amazing people. Jim Collins, author of mammoth seller Good to Great, calls this “who luck”. “Who luck” isn’t blind luck; you have to grow your own luck.
Most people are lazy with these asks. I’ve been lazy at times, but I’ve also learned my lessons. I’ve had some approach me lazily, and others approach me well. Here are some wise steps to take when you approach a leader asking for their time.
Clearly express how they’ve already impacted you and what you hope to learn during this time. Perhaps you’ve read their writing, they’ve impacted your friends or their conference talk helped something click. Tell them up front. They need to know they’ve already influenced you and what you hope to learn from them.
Make it convenient (and free) for them. Offer to drive to them, fit into their schedule and pay for lunch or coffee. This shows them you’re hungry. I’ve driven a few hours to meet leaders. There are a handful of people I would get on a plane to visit if I could get a few hours with them.
If they agree to meet prepare, prepare, prepare! Take notes as you read their writing, watch their videos, comb their social media feeds and talk to mutual friends about them.
Prepare a list of questions to ask them. Consider sending them your questions ahead of time. I’ve gotten deeper answers when I’ve done this, and it shows them I am prepared and will value their time.
Shut up and ask good questions. Seriously, you’re there to learn from them. Talk sparingly, ask good questions and get out of the way. Take notes when they drop wisdom bombs and potential next steps for you.
Send them a follow up. Thank them for their time and share your biggest takeaways. Ideally, they want to meet with you again because your time energized them also.
Share their ideas with others. If they invested some of their best time and thoughts into you re-invest that into others. Blog about it or share nuggets during your team meeting.
Value; that is the key. Whatever you do value their time, value your relationship, value their feedback. When high-capacity leaders sense value they are likely to keep investing value into you. Show others you are worth investing in and often they will keep investing in you.