Scott Belsky has a unique perspective: he’s been in the startup trenches, executive suites of Adobe, and the boardrooms of many companies.
I want to highlight three ideas inspired by him that will make you rethink how to gain influence, hire better, and do great work.
Want more influence? Give away credit
Everyone likes to get credit for a job well done, which means giving it away is a powerful thing.
Do you know a credit-hoarder? Of course you do. Getting credit makes people feel seen and valued. It’s a temporary patch over insecurities. But someone who constantly needs credit loses influence in the long-term.
We want to work with people who remember our contributions and are willing to share the spotlight. This is true of teammates and especially of new managers. But it’s hard to do consistently because it’s much easier to recall your own contributions.
A helpful reminder: your team did more than you think, and you did less than you realize. Even if not 100% true, erring on this side is a good way to operate.
Credit is free to give, and priceless for new people finding their footing. If you are the new person, you can start by crediting those who have helped you onboard.
Credit can lift people up and tear teams down. As you gain more influence, your words carry greater weight. Giving credit to one person can deplete the ownership felt by many, so it’s often best to credit the team effort and praise specifically afterwards.
Want to hire better? Don’t be a resume snob
To get the best hire, first understand what types of profiles will succeed in the role. How much of it requires an entrepreneur, manager vs. doer mindset? Or put more simply, are you looking for a flag planter or a road builder?
A flag planter works on new products. Success is to plant the flag, matters less how you get there (e.g., Uber in the early days). A road builder works on established products. Success is to pave a robust path, matters a lot how you get there (e.g., SEO improvements).
Great flag planters need initiative above all else. They don’t have to play by the rules nor take a surgical approach. Great road builders, on the other hand, benefit from experience. The best roads are usually laid by people who’ve done it before.
Many companies that get a taste of success become resume snobs. Finding the most experienced person is suddenly priority #1, setting bars that the early hires could never have met. “We’re growing up” is the common argument, but there is a hidden cost to all this.
Resume snobs raise the floor for quality, but they also lower the ceiling for potential. And a sudden influx of experienced rule-makers can snuff out what made you different. It can spell the end of your flag-planting days.
Instead, hire a portfolio of people that fit a variety of risk profiles. Your appetite for risk should reflect how much of what you do is error-prevention vs. invention. In the case of invention, it pays to bet on people who have initiative and learn quickly.
Want to do great work? Grant yourself a curiosity budget
Productivity is a double-edged sword. Focusing only on doing more things turns into a quest of finding the easiest boxes to check. It makes you over-optimize for the short-term.
A useful antidote is carving out a curiosity budget: time to explore new things.
- Recharge your creative battery so you’re more energized when you are working
- Make unexpected connections by remixing ideas
- Nurture what makes you different, which might even turn into your talent stack
I abandoned my curiosities for years because they didn’t “feel productive”. But then I learned about all the great things that blossomed from the humble seeds of curiosity.
- Developer’s hobby turned into Photopea which makes $500K / year
- Beeple made digital art everyday for 14 years before selling a NFT for $69M
- Josh Comeau blogged for years before launching a CSS course to the tune of $500K
Of course, not every exploration turns into a glorious business. But the point stands: the greatest power behind curiosity is forgetting about making instant progress. You become a long-term investor, rather than a speculator of the hot new trend.
Your curiosity keeps you going, regardless of whether you’re “qualified”. This is important because anything remarkable is a stretch, so you will always be unqualified to do what will be your greatest work.
With that said, a creative budget isn’t always compatible with the demands of a job. It’s part of why I quit mine to experiment full-time. But the best way to ease into it remains the same: find small pockets of time to tinker and play.
- To gain influence, give away credit — make it rewarding to work with you
- Don’t be a resume snob — especially not when you need flag-planters
- Set aside a curiosity budget to nurture new interests — it’ll keep you sharp and unique
Recommended read 📚
- The Messy Middle from Scott Belsky — I took endless notes reading this; so much truth and wisdom packed into these pages!
P.S. Product Hunt selected me as a grant recipient! 100% unexpected, thank you to everyone who voted and commented. Means a lot ❤