For a long time in my life I never had to explain myself. If I made decisions I just did whatever I wanted and that was it. No reasons were needed whenever I did this or bought that. When I went here or went there. I had no one I reported to. I never had to explain myself. I’m guessing that most people’s college years and twenties were/are similar to this. Do what we want, when we want.
At this point in my life though that’s changed a lot. One of the places I notice it the most is my job at isocket. Working at a startup is a lot different than working at a big company. At a big company you’re told what to do most of the time and have a very specific role you’re filling. This means that there’s not a whole lot of explaining why you make certain decisions and most of the time you’re not making them on your own. At isocket it’s the complete opposite.
An example of explaining myself at work would be communicating to the team that we need to add a certain feature to our product as soon as possible. Once communicated, I would be asked why I feel like we need to add it, the evidence that I’ve seen in the market, the impact that adding this feature to our product would have on our business and why this certain feature is should be prioritized ahead of other features that we already have in our roadmap. In other words, I would need to clearly explain myself and why I felt the way I did about this new feature. Conversations like this happen multiple times a day at isocket and it’s something that any early employee at a startup needs to be able to handle.
Decisions that would take other companies weeks or months take us only a few minutes. But, with this speed and freedom comes a lot more accountability. Being able to articulate why you want to do something and what it will mean to our business is critical when making important decisions very quickly. This is really what being at a startup is all about. It can get a little crazy at times, but I can guarantee you’re never going to be bored.
Another good example of explaining myself is when I make decisions in my marriage and other relationships that are important to me. Making a decision is easy, but thinking about why you made it and being able to explain the reasoning behind it is what’s hard. But, the more you can facilitate these types of conversations in a healthy way the more you’re going to be able to understand others and the more they’re going to understand you.
Explaining yourself in a personal relationship is actually pretty similar to how it happens in business but the topics are going to be much different. For example, my wife might wonder why I took a certain route to IKEA instead of the way that she would usually go. This doesn’t seem like something that’s a big deal, but being able to explain even the smallest of decisions is important. Being able to say that I took a different route because I thought that there would be a lot of traffic the other way due to the time of day would be a simple and straight-forward explanation. Of course, how she accepts my explanation is important but that’s not in my control. I gave my honest explanation and it’s up to her how she handles it.
Sometimes going through this process isn’t easy and being asked to explain yourself can make you feel like you’re being attacked for no reason. More times than not this isn’t the case and it’s up to you to be able to give the reasoning behind the things that you’re doing. If you can’t explain your decisions or simply don’t want to that’s your choice but your viewpoint or way of doing things won’t be nearly as respected as if you did.
Between being married and working at isocket over the past few years this has been a real learning experience for me and I still struggle though it sometimes. But I know that figuring out a way to confidently give my honest reasoning behind the choices that I make will only help me become a better and stronger communicator. Boo yah.