I just got back from a week in the Big LA, Los Angeles -- La La Land, Latte Land, HueyWould, GlitterTown, etc.
I really like that burg. I like the glitz, the glamour, that it feels like everyone (CEOs to baristas) work really hard to keep up appearances -- hell, I even genuinely like driving in LA (other than in torrential rain).
I met with a lot of brilliant people at a bunch of different (and different types of) companies. I'm a studier of people, and I'm fascinated by people navigating (or navigating badly) perhaps the weirdest social network in the world.
Here are some of my observations.
Treat receptionists, administrative assistants, and personal assistants well. I'm a firm believer in being a respecter of persons independent of role, folks in these roles work ridiculously hard, and I'm grateful for the work they do. Add to that the power these people have in this geography, and you'd be hard-pressed to justify abrasiveness in these situations. I literally shook my head at a visitor blowing off someone behind the front desk, and then almost laughed out loud when they didn't get in to their scheduled appointment.
There was even a scenario where I let a PA set up my laptop for a presentation. I'm super tech saavy (and obviously know my own computer), so while this was a no-brainer for me, this was part of his job for this meeting. Me canning my ego and getting out of his way made the setup faster than it would have been with us both trying to do it, and showed his competence to the bigger group.
Get names right -- especially names of important people in the Biz. Say you're talking to "Grand Pooba A" for a media deal, and you keep miss-calling him "Grand Pooba B". And it turns out "Grand Pooba B" is his peer, and they're at odds with each other as to how they each see the project moving forward. Mixing up names is a bad move anyway (it implies you don't value the person), but in this glitterati scenario, it can remove you from the game.
Leverage the superficial. People in the Biz are some of the most brilliant and creative folks anywhere. But I've been in conversations where they've dismissed me, and doing something like pulling out a super-sexy, little-known phone (not the iPhone -- that's so last year), can bring attention back to me. I don't want to manipulate, but I do pay attention to subtle cues so I can leverage common ground that we're all excited about.
Love the franchises. The meetings I took last week were gifts. Part of what made them gifts (aside from busy, talented people taking time out of their production schedules) is the meetings were all built around creative franchises core to how I grew up or where I am now. Being able to connect with artistic and technical folks at a fanboy level made the conversations more exciting, collaborative, and productive. Plus, in many ways, I am arguably the target audience for at least three of the projects, so that sanity check validation was key for them and for me. This is my personal favorite, as it's so fun. To get to work on the stuff I love? True giftage.
I got a ton more out of last week, but this post already has the double whammy of being a bit preachy, and overly vague as I steer clear of exposing the actual meetings or franchises.
So I'll call this bit o' rambling good for now, and hope it was helpful for folks who maybe dismiss the importance of these little social bits.