I love the smell of my ass frying in the morning..not.
Okay, so I put up a post trying to make a point about people going to far with the BS vs. just using the phrase I don't know. I enhanced what goes on in my office everyday to make this point and, my bad, it appears to have taken a wrong turn. Lots of comments raining on my blog parade. So let's hit the ol reset button and try this again with some clarity.
No, contrary to what the first post appeared to show, I am not lying or having fun and young start-ups expense. Mea culpa, oops, not explained correctly. And, no, I'm not an anti-OS/2 person. And no, I'm not living in an Ivory Tower looking down on the little people wanting my money. Sorry, folks, not where I was coming from.
Here's the key message I'm trying to get across. Saying "I don't know" or "I'll have to check" or words to that effect is critically important when it comes to being able to build trust, understanding, etc, between the VC and company. I respect, admire, and appreciate "I don't know" and "I'll check" as signs of maturity and professionalism.
What happens way too often is people say what they think we want to hear. For example, I've lost count the number of people who come into my office and apologize for using Firefox vs. IE thinking I, as a former Microsoft person, actually cares. I need a two way street, open communications, and the knowledge that the management team can speak their minds on issues so we can have a fulsome conversation when things go sideways or when heavy duty decisions need to be made.
So, yes, I'll flip a silly tech comment out there to watch body language. I want to get a reaction and yes, I totally understand this may be the first meeting and that many people are going to try and 'be polite' or whatever. I always say, usually immediately, "I'm kidding" and virtually all of the time, 'the joke' breaks the ice a bit.
As I've said countless time folks, this is all about people and relationships. Your managerial relationship with your people, your customers and your relationship with me.
If I say in a meeting "Don't you think [Microsoft/Google/KFC] is going to offer your[app/service]", your answer is clearly important but what's critical to me is the reaction and how the question is handled. Watching somebody respond to "I don't get it, why would anybody do this" is (to me) almost more important than the words. The tone, body language, patience, etc, are all factors that lots of time get overlooked but matter.
For example, if I say to a coder who is giving a demo, "wouldn't that be easier to code in Cobol vs. JAVA", some of you will conclude I'm being a goof/prick/dork. But I watch the reactions while immediately saying "I'm kidding" which results in me getting a split second (or more) insight into that person. The instantaneous and spontaneous reaction complete with body language is valuable. Plus, as I've said, that "I'm kidding" helps take some of the edge off.
Another example: I had a CEO make a statement about "the majority of women" do some action. I said that's doesn't jibe with the data I've read on the same topic, are you sure? The CEO shot the CFO a dirty look, and tap danced around my comments clearly making stuff up to compensate. And this small thing sent the CEO off topic for the rest of the meeting. I was concerned enough that I went to his office and did a follow up meeting because the point was minor but the reaction seemed over the top. Turns out the CFO had simply flipped a number. So a minority thing was now a majority thing. It was minor but this told me something about the people, the team interaction, etc. The tap dance in my office was unnecessary. It would have been fine with "Really? We have the data let us go check". That's my larger point. It is not about embarrassing anyone rather getting to know who I'm entrusting millions of dollars to.
So, while I'm sorry for creating a rukus in the comments section, please don't ignore the larger point. Selling is good. Promoting (even self promoting) is okay. Bullshitting is not.
Knowing the difference is, in my opinion, a character trait of a great CEO/Founder/Manager.
Thanks to all for commenting and stopping by the blog.