Several years ago, a friend called me out of the blue while I was sitting at an airport waiting for my flight. We had worked together at Dreamworks, and now he had taken a job at a different well known animation company. On the call, he recounted having meetings with a very well known film director/creative/executive. His description of these meetings was really memorable: “A review meeting with him is like talking to a laser beam.” What he meant by that is that this person can see through you and what you’re trying to sell. He will figure out where you made a tradeoff and ask what it was and how you decided that. He knows the exact right questions to ask to demand the best of you. He accepts no compromises for quality, no bullshit.
When you’ve met someone like this, especially in a work setting, it can be remarkable. One of my closest friends is this way as well. The type of wishy-washy answers you’ve previously given to things you haven’t thought through – basically a stalling technique until you get a chance to figure it out – no longer work! You must be prepared, and consider all the angles, before you talk to this person. I was thinking about this today. I really need to work on being a laser beam. We should all be more like laser beams. The world would be a lot better if people thought hard enough about what you were saying to ask the exact right question. You know how when you’re having a conversation with someone, and you’re thinking of the next bullet point you want to make when this person is done speaking? Well, cut that out. Instead, listen very hard and try to figure out the perfect question that will get into this person’’s soul. If you do that, it raises the bar for yourself and that person. Every time.