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“The world is complex. I think any situation is complex, your job is to make it simpler. So you don't keep things simple, you make them simple, and it's a hard fight. My responsibility as a person, and even more as a manager, is to make it simpler to digest part of this complexity.”

In this episode

How can you help someone on your team when you don’t know the answer?

Rémi Guyot is the Chief Product Officer at BlaBlaCar and the author of a biweekly newsletter titled Mind Fooled, where he writes about leadership, design, and how the mind works.

In today’s episode, Rémi explains what it means to be intellectually honest – and how dissociating from ideas can help your team make better decisions.

Rémi also breaks down why the KISS design principle is wrong, and why it’s our responsibility as managers to digest complex problems before delegating them to our team.

Tune in to hear Rémi’s advice on how to help someone on your team, when you don’t have the answers to their questions.


Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.


05:00

Intuition and interns

12:29

Intellectual honesty

18:00

Only questions are allowed

19:30

Simplicity matters

22:30

Make it simple, don’t keep it simple

37:00

Adopting an outsider perspective

46:50

What you focus on matters


Resources


Transcript

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  00:15

 Remi, Welcome to the show.

Rémi Guyot (BlaBlaCar)  02:42

Thank you very much for having me today.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  02:44

Yeah, very excited to do this with you. You’re located in Paris today, right?

Rémi Guyot (BlaBlaCar)  02:50

That’s correct. I’m living in Paris. And it’s like the nighttime for me right now.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  02:55

Yeah, that’s awesome. Thanks for doing this at nighttime your time. There’s a lot that we were looking forward to chatting with you about, you’ve been at a bunch of different companies, you know, including PayPal, and now you’re the chief product officer at blah blah. Car. Before we dive in, I wanted to start by asking you Do you remember when you first started managing or leading a team? And what were some of the early mistakes that you tended to make back then?

Rémi Guyot (BlaBlaCar)  03:25

So I do I do. And, before managing a team, I started to manage just one person. And it was an intern, who was which I think was the key starting point of my career, who was already better than me at what he was doing. So he was a visual designer. And even though he was an intern, he was already instantly more talented than I would ever be. Which I think was very interesting. Because it It forced me, to discover how I could help him become better without myself becoming better at what he was. So it was a matter of Okay, so, you know, is there any, any framing I can do about you know, what he’s supposed to do? That would help him grow faster than what he would do on his own. So I think that was my first manager experience for two years, just managing one intern in a very, very tiny company.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  04:27

So I have to say that that like that’s super interesting to me because I think people realize that like way later on. And typically it doesn’t work that way. Right? Usually, you’re like, the best at what you do. So you get promoted and you get to do you know, basically manage a team or other people, but like I’m super impressed at like just the level of, I guess, self-awareness to be able to say that this guy is actually like from this particular perspective, is it more advanced than I am? So I’m curious like how Did you coach him to get better at what he was doing?

Rémi Guyot (BlaBlaCar)  05:04

It’s funny because I don’t know how I had an intuition today. It’s a big part of how I work and how I managed, you know, other people. But I had the intuition that he was a very creative mind, which is why he needed the opposite of what we could expect from creative people. And she needed constraints. So for example, there’s a very had a very vivid memory of him being stuck, we needed to create a was a small logo for a small product we were reading at the time, and he was stuck, he was like, I cannot find you, I cannot find it. And he was very young. So you didn’t have all the tools that he probably developed since then. And I was like, Okay, so I’m going to give you a constraint. So not only do you have to find the logo, but you have to find it in one hour, in the upcoming hour. And, in this upcoming hour, you don’t need to find one, you need to find 10. And he did find 10, you know, logo ideas within the hour. And most of them were crap. But one of them was interesting. And, that unlocked, you know, the kind of block blocking moment he was into. And so I think that’s, that’s something that I think was interesting, like, I couldn’t tell him, Hey, this is the direction you should dive into. Because I didn’t have his talent. I didn’t have a visual eye. But it felt like I had the ability to kind of get him on stuck. And what was weird, or, weirdly, it worked is that by putting him into a set of constraints, that would force him actually to overcome the kind of, you know, writer’s block or designer’s block that he was into. So that was a small epiphany for me to discover that I was able to help him, despite not having his talent, not knowing what was the solution. And by, you know, creating a frame around his work.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  07:04

Yeah, that’s super interesting. And I’m very impressed that you were able to figure that out on like your very first stab at management.

Rémi Guyot (BlaBlaCar)  07:12

The one thing I want to say about this is, I think my lucky moment, as a manager was discovering very, very, very early on in my career, how I will never be an amazing individual contributor. And I think this prompted two things. A, I didn’t have the syndrome of you know, being promoted to manager because I was the best performer. It was not the case. And it was because I had a strong interest in people, not because I was a great performer as an individual. But second, my admiration for amazing individual contributors has always been very high since I discovered that I would never be that person. And so I think, in a way, whenever I see individual contributors, that is amazing. Who wants to become a manager, I’m always very curious about what’s going to happen. Some people managed to make this transformation. But I do think it’s it’s a hard one. And sometimes we make fun of people that become managers. And because you know, they’re not good at doing things. But sometimes being amazing. And doing things can be a hurdle. So that’s why it’s interesting, you know? Yeah, I think I discovered very early on, I would never be an amazing individual contributor myself. And that’s okay.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  08:31

Yeah, I mean, as I said, it’s me who shows a lot of, I guess, self-awareness on your part. And I think like, a lot of people may not have discovered that, like, many, many years into their career, so good on you for being for doing that. So early on. What about some mistakes so far? Like, I have this picture of a superstar manager figuring this stuff out early on, let’s talk about some of the things that you may not have gotten right from the get-go. Yeah,

Rémi Guyot (BlaBlaCar)  08:59

but how long do they have? So, I mean, what are the earliest things that I did was to, to just copy managers that I had, and even I even to copy great managers that I, you know, had the luck to work with. And they just copy-paste things that we’re doing and then discover that even though it makes total sense, why they’re doing it, it didn’t make sense for me. And this as an example, you know, I remember the way I was one of my managers was announcing that someone was getting promoted, you know, so he would make it a very formal conversation and he almost, you know, theatrical, and the first time I had to announce someone that they were getting promoted, I tried to, you know, embody the same tone, and it felt awkward for me for the other person in that particular sense. And I realized that it worked for that manager that I had been trying, to copy. And it didn’t work for me. And so I think that was an interesting mistake, which is there are some best practices in terms of people management. But it doesn’t mean that every best practice works for you. And so there is a, you know, there is a sense of, you have to make them your own, and some of them will not work for you. So a lot of the mistakes that I did were copying great people, but without understanding that some of the things just didn’t fit me. So a lot of those happened along the way,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  10:35

you know, that’s, you know, that’s a very, very good, I guess, depiction of it. I guess my question is the, it’s really hard to know, necessarily, like, what style will work for you. I mean, maybe for some things you can know, you had a manager who is maybe a jerk, and you, you know, you know, that you shouldn’t be, but in general, sometimes it’s hard, but you’re okay with, like the concept of trying different things, but just being perceptive of like, how it feels. And if it feels like the right way for you,

Rémi Guyot (BlaBlaCar)  11:10

I agree the lesson that I took from those mistakes was not, it was a mistake to try to copy great people, I continue to believe that actually, this is a, you know, an accelerator to your growth, you don’t have to invent everything on your own. So it’s more indeed, to be attentive to how it feels while you’re doing things. And some things make sense for someone else that doesn’t make sense for you, or they don’t feel right. And, and not to persist, you know, on that path. That’s the feeling so so we, you know, do observe, do try to, to copy the source of inspiration, because there’s, there’s, likely, some things won’t work for you. But at the same time that there needs to be a filtering process when you’re trying things. 

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  11:57

Yeah, one of the things that’s interesting about your background is obviously, you come from the design and product background. And one of the things that I suppose you have a lot of visibility to is the way that teams make decisions that lead to quality design, and quality products. I’m curious, like what have you learned over time, in helping your teams produce high-quality products and work,

Rémi Guyot (BlaBlaCar)  12:29

There is an important ingredient that I would call being intellectually honest, what I mean by this is, I think that it’s, it’s very hard to distinguish who you are, and, and, and what you think and what you perceive. And I think it’s very important for a team to be able to discuss ideas, without this idea being associated with someone or without, you know, your opinion about an idea. You know, be very attached to yourself. And so being intellectually honest, is the ability to, for example, defend an idea, and be sincerely trying to defend it. And being able, you know, the second after too, you know, sincerely attack it, because, in a way, you’re just trying to look at this idea from different angles. And, and if you’re, if you want to make the best decision, you better make sure that all the different perspectives on the decision have been looked into, and being intellectually honest, it means that if someone is going to attack your idea, you’re not going to take it personally, you’re going to consider what the person saying, you’re going to be able actually to, you know, piggyback on that person’s critique. And, you know, they actually, it’s a very interesting point, because we didn’t discuss this. So, you know, is anyone else in the room, you know, you know, thinking that notion dig into this. So, this, I think, is a key ingredient, which is very hard. And then, let’s say the underlying ingredient is trust. Because actually, the reason why some people may, you know, react a bit defensively is that their level of trust that’s in the role in the team is is it makes it hard to distinguish you know, am I being attacked? Or is it just the idea that I gave that is being attacked? And so, when you have a circle of trust, discussing, this distinction is very clear. And the conversation can be focused on what we’re talking about, not about the person who’s carrying the piece of the debate.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  14:34

So that I can see, you know, following that kind of protocol will lead to better discussions and as you said to be intellectually honest, my question is, is this like, how do you teach people to operate in this way, like when they get onboarded into your organization? Is there like specific protocols you’re your kind of explain to people this is We give feedback during these reviews or like when you get feedback, here’s like step 123? On on how to digest that and incorporate it like, how do you make sure that like teams exhibit these, these behaviours,

Rémi Guyot (BlaBlaCar)  15:14

just by listening to your question and realizing that I think we don’t do a great job at onboarding people about this. So I do think it’s a bit too implicit. But I think the way we look at it is in the hiring process with this is something that we evaluate in a very simple way, which is, you know, if we ask someone to present, we ask them to work on a small case study. And then to present it. We rarely believe that the quality of the work that is presented is going to be amazing, because of the amount of information they have, because in the author of time they had to prepare, what we’re going to evaluate is how they’re going to respond to questions we ask or two strong counterpoints that we make, based on what they came up with. And their reaction is going to be for us that will occur a good indicator of how naturally they behave. And so that’s, that’s a major thing. Another thing I think, you know, a lot of people in the company tried to do is find you start by asking you a question, or do you start by making a comment when being exposed to something that you don’t understand? Or you don’t agree with it? So so, you know, if you tell me something that I spontaneously would disagree with within my head? Am I going to say, Hey, this is wrong, because of this? And this, I’m going to ask, hey, it feels like you know, you have some piece of information that I was not aware of, can you elaborate on that point. And that interim, it feels like in both could be in a way expressing some kind of, you know, we’re not on the same page type of impression, but one seems to be more curious about, you know, getting to the bottom of, you know, what was being discussed versus me trying to oppose to you when, hey, you know, we’re starting kind of intellectual fight. And so I think even the behaviour that people display is a way of kind of, you know, establishing this informal culture.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  17:19

Yeah, I think this is such a key point, like for people to take away, which is like, before expressing a comment, you should probably ask a question. I know, I’ve learned this lesson a lot. And it’s been, you know, say, I’ve been at a design review. And I’ve said something like, I think we should do this. But you know, and then often I hear well, actually, we did consider that. And, you know, and here’s why we didn’t do that. And so since I’ve learned whenever I’m very good about it to ask, so instead of like commenting to say something like, what other options did we consider before we arrived at this result? And a lot of times, like that, ‘s, that’s a, you know, more respectful question all. And also, it will give you more insight than if you approach it the other way. So yes, I 100% agree with this notion.

Rémi Guyot (BlaBlaCar)  18:12

There was we moved away since then. But there was a time when the rule of our design critique sessions was the only type of comment you can make our questions. That’s it. There’s no we don’t care about what you think your only purpose in the room is to help the designer who dares to present his half-baked work. So you’re not here to put the judgment, you’re here to have that person trying to cover the blind spots. And one way to cover the blind spot is to say, hey, you know, did you consider this, you know, this way? Or is there something about this particular approach that you took that is making you doubt? So, asking questions, forces, you, I think, to just take a different stance on the conversation that you’re having.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  18:57

Yeah. And I think this stuff applies to everything, right. It’s not just design reviews. I mean, it just applies to feedback in general of any type to any type of person.

Rémi Guyot (BlaBlaCar)  19:06

Absolutely. Absolutely. I think it goes beyond design. 

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  19:09

That’s one thing that you and I were just chatting about, like, before we hit record, was this. I mean, I think you use the words, you use the word obsession about simplicity. And one can imagine that simplicity and design make sense. But I think like for you, it’s a lot broader than just designing and it’s almost like a management philosophy. So I’m curious if you could maybe elaborate on the concept of simplicity. Sure. And

Rémi Guyot (BlaBlaCar)  19:39

I would say it’s a life philosophy. So there’s a book called The Essentialism by an author called Greg McCune for mispronouncing his name and I and for me, this is one of the best books about simplicity because I don’t think that the word simplicity is using the word But for me, it’s a definition of simplicity, which is in any situation for me, someone who’s obsessed about simplicity is trying to understand what is the essence of what we’re talking about what we’re looking at, right? So the simplicity of retirement is covered is not about minimalism in the sense of trying to get to zero, you know, to lower things. It’s about trying to understand, you know, what matters, and what, what’s the signal to noise. And so, in terms of design, an obsession, a quest for simplicity, is tried when you’re looking at a screen, for example, as an in a design critique, for example, it’s like, but what belongs in the screen, what is at the heart of the screen? And, what are things that got there for probably good reasons, but, you know, they should be treated in a much softer, or maybe somewhere else where they belong. So it’s real and that’s, that’s for the design part. But if you apply it to, I don’t know, you’re having a one-to-one with a direct report. What are you trying to do right now, today, this person and yourself, which should be at the heart of your conversation, and you can have a one-to-one, which is going to be a checklist of an agenda that you’ve maybe co-designed together? And that’s fine. But think about it for a second, like if, you know, if that’s the most important one you want to add, you’re gonna have, what should you be talking about? And the thing is, asking yourself, the question sometimes is going to lead to nowhere. And sometimes it’s going to realize that you had 10 agenda items. And you’re not even talking about the 11th one, which was the main conversation you should be having. So forcing yourself to, you know, to, to wonder, but you know, what is the essence of this moment of this product of this conversation of this relationship? I think leads to an interesting question. Now, I developed over time, different types of frameworks to both these questions and try to answer them. But yeah, that’s my definition of simplicity is trying to go to the essence,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  22:07

I think this is awesome. You know, obviously, like them, there’s the 80/20 rule. And so a lot of times, like, there’s a small handful of things that like are gonna make the most impact. I am super curious about the frameworks you develop, though, like how do you remind yourself to do these things across your workday? And across your relationships?

Rémi Guyot (BlaBlaCar)  22:31

So, my theory is that this is a very typical moto in the tech industry, which is, keep it simple, right now. So actually, it’s the acronym is kiss. It keeps it simple, stupid, so or stupid, simple. I mean, there are different variations. But I think this model is flawed. It assumes that things start simple. Which is just not true. I think things I think the world is complex. I think any situation is complex, your job is to make it simpler. So you don’t keep things simple. You make them simple, and it’s a hard fight. So that’s, that’s how I look at the world. That’s, that’s my starting point. I never look at Oh, things are simple, let’s not touch them, or let’s protect them. What’s more, okay, things are complex. My responsibility as a person and even more as a manager is to make them simpler to digest part of this complexity and to head over to my team, for example, a simpler problem to solve. And by the way, right now, I’m just quoting another book, that is called a good strategy, bad strategy. And that says that you know, the purpose of any strategy is to do exactly this is to turn the complexity of a working environment or competitive environment, into a set of problems that teams can solve, they cannot solve everything about the environment. So you have to digest make some choices, and the strategy is going to kind of align everyone randomly. And so so when I look at the world as a, you know, an infinite number of complexities, then you need tools that are going to help you simplify. And so I developed a framework that is called heart. And it contains five techniques to simplify anything,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  24:34

The framework is, so you have a few different strategies to turn something that is complex into something simpler. My question is, how do you remember to do that? Because like, I think just the essence of what you’re saying makes a lot of sense. The problem is a lot of times like, you know, when I think about myself, oftentimes after the fact, I realized that Oh, Like, you know, the one thing we didn’t get time to do was, say, the most important thing. Or if I were to ask, you know, questions like, what’s the most important thing in marketing right now? Or what’s the most important thing in sales? Or what’s the most important thing in the company? Like, I feel like the process of asking those questions will probably lead to very good outcomes. But it’s, but often you just get stuck in the whirlwind, even a thing where like, you’re in a meeting, or you’re observing a group of people working together, there’s kind of like this, you know, taking a step back and understanding like, what’s happening here? Like, what’s the most important thing in this dynamic? Hey, have you figured out, how to get yourself to, like, ask those questions more often?

Rémi Guyot (BlaBlaCar)  25:47

Not fully. But there’s a couple of techniques, I think that can help. I mean, first of all, I think it’s a matter of thinking more. And I think there are two ways you can think, thinking more and thinking better. And there are two ways you can do this. I think it’s silence and writing. So the silence, can can can mean, for example, you’re in a meeting, if you spend the entire meeting talking, you will not be able to be the person that is taking a step back from the conversation and observing the conversation and wondering whether the conversation is going in an interesting direction, for example, you know, are we talking about the essential topic, or are we just, you know, talking about the distraction that someone threw in there, if you’re, you know, to engage in the conversation, you, you cannot take this perspective, take this step back, so that, you know, if you’re less trying to prove to people that you’re, you know, unimportant stakeholder that meeting, and so you have to have a point of view on every single thing that is being discussed. I think it’s hard to do this. So So let’s feel being comfortable with not seeing a word is a good way to have this, I’ll just say, you know, when it when example, one of my first meeting at another car, the two co-founders, gather a small team to work on an important new product idea that, you know, we had to launch. And so one of the founders, a very talkative one, you know, sets the the the challenge and tries to explain why matters for the company, etc. And he asked every person in the room so there was, you know, some designers, some engineers, some product experts, you know, what’s their perspective? What are their first thoughts? The second co-founder is saya is not seeing your work. So, you know, we listen to everyone talking. So the engineers say, okay, so I think that you know, from an architecture standpoint, we could do it this way, the designers, okay, you know, I think I can come up with a couple of mock-ups to imagine how the field would look like the pros are concerned, okay, from a legal standpoint, I want to check with someone else to understand, this isn’t something we can do. Everyone talks, except the silent co-founder. So the other co-founder looks to him and says, hey, you know, you have anything to add. And he thinks for a second, he says, No. And the co-founder said, Me, come on, this is a super important topic, you have a lot of experience, you know, anything you want to share. And he’s like, I don’t have anything smarter to share, than what has been said. The self-confidence that you need to, you know, be in the room, and just say, I don’t have anything to add, that is smarter than what is being said, is, is a huge, huge skill. Because when you’re able to do this, A, when you start talking, people listen to you, way more. And he turns out that you’re able to fully listen to the conversation, you know, spotted, anything is missing. So that’s one way you can do it. And then the second thing that I mentioned was writing. I do think that writing a lot, taking notes in this is something that the one object I always carry with me, it’s not my phone is a notebook. A small one. So it’s always, you know, in my pocket, and I do think that you know, writing and, you know, reviewing what you wrote, but not in a lot because you’re trying to send you to know, meeting notes after just because you’re trying to digest what has been said, that allows you to get the perspective that you may need that maybe you didn’t have on the spot, so maybe sometimes you’re not during the conversation able to, you know, have the distance that you need to say Hey, are we having the right conversation? That’s nice, you’re able to spot it afterwards that maybe there’s something we missed, and so you can come back to it afterwards.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  30:05

[AD BREAK BEGINS] Hey there. Just a quick note, before we move on to the next part, if you’re listening to this podcast, you’re probably already doing one on one meetings. But here’s the thing, we all know that one on one meetings are the most powerful, but at the same time, the most misunderstood concept in practice and management. That’s why we’ve spent over a year compiling the best information, the best expert advice into this beautifully designed 90 Plus page ebook. Now, don’t worry, it’s not a single-spaced font, you know, lots of text, there’s a lot of pictures, it’s nice, easily consumable information, we spent so much time building it. And the great news is that it’s completely free. So head on over to fellow dot app slash blog to download the Definitive Guide on one one, it’s there for you, we hope you enjoy it. And let us know what you think. And with that said, let’s go back to the interview.[AD BREAK ENDS]  Are you the type of person that also journals from time to time?

Rémi Guyot (BlaBlaCar)  31:09

I don’t journal in the way at least I picture journals where Oh, today, you know, less than what I did, but, but I do spend a lot of time alone with my notebook. Like, this is how I start my day like I drop my kids to school, and then I sit in a cafe, and I have nothing we need. But this notebook, is the way I try to pay attention to what has my attention. So I try to think, hey, what’s bothering me right now? And then, I tried to write it down. And they okay, why is it bothering me actually, so much? And I tried to write it down, and they you know, you know, what could I do about it, and I write it down. So it’s, I would, I would struggle to call this journaling, it feels for me a better way, kind of aided problem-solving. So, you know, instead of just relying on my brain, which is limited in many ways, I just tried to have this, you know, tool that allows me to put a thought down, and that to look from a distance at that thought and kind of being able to, you know, add to it or to criticize it or to discard it. And so this is why I think writing is is an amazing tool, if you use it as a way to deepen your, your level of thinking, so isn’t journaling, I don’t know. But I do write a lot for myself with no other purpose than just, you know, going deeper into my line of thought, in particular.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  32:38

I wanted to zoom in on what you said, which is that sometimes writing things will allow you to look back on conversations, and oftentimes a lot of the good ideas or like, the new ways of looking at things will come after and maybe not during, and so yeah, anything that can aid with that will be a big deal. And I think it’s also true that a lot of us are very eager to start talking and discussing, as opposed to being silent. And on that note of talking a lot. There is a mistake that you have seen. A lot of people do and a lot of younger managers do. Which is this concept of like managers adding value by bringing solutions to problems. Whenever they see that. I’m curious, like what is the approach that you recommend that managers do take when someone does come to them with a problem? 

Rémi Guyot (BlaBlaCar)  33:37

First, I think this is I think the right behaviour is way easier when you’re sincerely ignorant about the solution. Like you don’t even have any idea of the solution, let alone the right solution. Right. So. So that’s if you want to practice, I think it’s easier to practice in a situation where you don’t have the answer. And so try to help out people that are not within your domain of expertise. So and you can throw you can do this through, you know, mentoring people, or just, you know, reaching out to people that maybe are younger than you so you have some experience to bring to them or let’s say some credibility, but the truth is, it is very unlikely that you have the answer to their problems. And so, I think, you know, that’s the question. So how can you help someone, even though you don’t have the answer, and you have any expertise that could be useful to them? For me, it’s very obvious that what you’re bringing to any person in that situation is precisely to not be the person that is facing the problem, which means you can question the person’s approach. You have the ability to ping pong with that person. So hey, you just said this. You know, can you elaborate, elaborate To be more polite, it’s funny you said this. But, five minutes ago, you said something that seems a little contradictory. Can you explain why? It can be about the bird? You know, you’re saying that you know, you care about this particular thing, but it feels like everything we’re talking about is something else, you know which one is it. So I think what you’re, what you can do, is trying to have a mix of full, the person needs to know that you care like you want to, you know, you’re on her side. And at the same time, being very skeptical, or whatever the person is saying. And it’s a, it’s a hard balance to find. But the kind of, you know, I want to help you out. But I’m going to deconstruct what you’re telling me, without adding any particular knowledge, just rephrasing what you’re saying, and sharing it with you and see if it helps you see it in a different light. And I think that’s, that’s good, it’s a bit generic, but I think it, you know, it needs by definition to be a generic approach, because you’re not bringing domain expertise. So it’s like, full attention, you’re, you’re fully listening. And you’re trying to spot what seems to be the flawed part of the reasoning. And then to, you know, rephrase the question, as we said before, so that hey, maybe, you know, there is something to dig into.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  36:24

Yeah, I, you know, I think this is so interesting. I mean, I love you said, specifically, like, you have to show that you care, while at the same time, being skeptical. And I agree, that might be a hard balance, but I understand it. It’s like the place in between those two things. And it’s very interesting what you said, which was sure you might have a solution in mind or Sure, you might be, say, context-aware. But I think like the super valuable thing as you said is, you have the outsider’s perspective, which is why as a lot of times even you know, for ourselves, I find, it’s hard for me to solve my problems, because you’re just like too in it, and you’re just not seeing something super obvious. And oftentimes, like one right question will get, you know, you to be able to come come to the solution. So the outsider perspective is super valuable.

Rémi Guyot (BlaBlaCar)  37:15

I think the outsider perspective also allows forces the person to explain the problem they’re going through, which sometimes alone, is going to be the path to the solution. So you know, you think you understand the problem that is in your head, but then you need to explain it to someone who’s not you. And by explaining, you’re like, Oh, but wait I’m not just by explaining, I realize that I, you know, my, my, my reasoning doesn’t make any sense. But I just discovered it by explaining to someone that needed more context. So but, but you cannot do this on your own. So that’s why you know, the act of writing kind of, you know, does this, but if you don’t have this habit of writing, or if it’s not enough, having someone who’s listening to you, is forcing you to explain your problems in probably a better way than you were doing to yourself. And that can be harmful to so even just this, but you have to, the person needs to see that you’re listening. And you want to understand, because if it’s, you know, you’re just a passive listener that is, you know, thinking about, okay, you know, what do I need to make in terms of groceries tonight, then then it will not create the spec?

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  38:32

Yeah, I think I think that makes a lot of sense. The other topic that I also wanted to ask you about was just hiring. So you have something called an expectation map, I would love for you to explain like, what what is an expectation map,

Rémi Guyot (BlaBlaCar)  38:50

when you start a new job? There is whether you know it or not, there is a set of expectations that people that have decided to hire you have for you. So they expect I mean, there’s, there’s a problem, there’s a hole somewhere, and they expect you sorry, to, to kind of, you know, fix this thing, or two, you know, fill this hole. The thing is, this set of expectations is unlikely to be clear. And not that anyone is trying to hide it from you. But that is likely going to be phrased in either implicit ways or contradictory ways. So actually, your set of expectations may be coming from different people. So the job description you’re going to get is going to be very generic. And it’s going to be the permit the same that they would have for any person into a similar type of role than the one you’re driving to, even though you’re hired for a specific role at a specific time. And so the expectation, and I call it the map because you know, this is something that you have to map out, you have to put extra effort into making this fuzzy set of expectations into a document. Like, this is exactly what people are expecting me to do. And this is not something that I invented, like, there’s a book called The first 90 days, which is for me as a Bible in terms of how, you know, you should onboard yourself and your job. And, and this book is, is, is helping you to ask the right question that will, you know, help you fill in this expectations map? So, for example, it’s, it’s clarifying what is the conversation that you should have with your manager? After you’ve been hired? Of course, you’re going to have all those conversations trying to see if you’re a good fit, but after you’re hired, there’s a set of expectations that you need to clarify about, you know, where do we think the company stands right now. And you know, what is expected of me in the upcoming 90 days? And what is the status of the team that I’m joining in terms of mood or efficiency are a couple of conversations that you’re going to usually think you’re having, but in a very casual way, and the expectation map is trying to, you know, to make you do this in a much more formal way, for example, another best practice from the book is saying, the first time you meet every single person in the company, you should ask them the same kind of question. Because, for example, imagine I ask, you know, 10 people in the company? Can you explain to me, what is the company’s strategy? Imagine I get 10 different answers. That’s very different information. But if I get 10 times the same answer, and both can happen, and there’s nothing dramatic about either situation, but you want to understand what company you’re stepping into. And for example, if you have 10 different answers, while you know for sure that you don’t have a company that is allied orality is what they call a surgeon, maybe they’re relying on something else, and that’s okay. But you need to understand this. Maybe they’re not aligned. And that’s maybe okay. But you also need to understand this. But all those things are things that usually you discover, you know, too late. And expectations map is just a document trying to formalize very explicitly, what just what people expect from you? Not, you know, in theoretical terms, but very concrete terms.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  42:46

Yeah, no, it’s, it’s awesome. I mentioned the first 90 days we had the author, Michael Watkins on the podcast. I love his approach. He’s very contrarian. He’s one of the like, the most contrarian people I’ve ever spoken to. So yeah, for the audience, if you want to check out that episode, as well, on the expectations map, I did want to ask you, do you take this and like, give it to people on their start date? No, no,

Rémi Guyot (BlaBlaCar)  43:12

I do. I think a, I think this is something that you as a new employee, need to discover. The thing is if I was if I a manager, I was to give that to the person. The truth is, I would only give I would give my expectations. But I am my expectations are only actually a short amount of information compared to what the person needs to be aware of. So for example, imagine I don’t know, imagine the other direct reports hate me, as a manager. Right? As an employee, your manager is never going to tell you that, by definition, because he’s not aware of he’s not customer information, he will chair so this there are so many things that you know, you as a new employee in your position, you need to do a 360 degree, you know, investigation about what you’re stepping into, to understand what’s the situation so I don’t think it’s something that can be given to you. I think it’s something that you have to, you know, have a type of framework for saying this is for me to the best firm that I found, to go through this investigation and ask questions, make observations. Another tool from the book is a, you know, a set of questions weekly check-in at the end of every week, you ask yourself questions like, you know, what bothered me this week? What opportunity that I missed? Just ask yourself questions that are just forcing you to have a reflection on what’s happening. And the reason why I was talking about the expectations map is in particular to make an opposition. Because the question that I was being asked when I was thinking about this was how I’m being hired as a new head of design. What do what am I supposed to do as a head of design? And I was thinking was this is the flawed way of answering the question like, who cares when a typical head of design is supposed to do? The key question is what are you supposed to do in this particular role? Maybe ahead of design is supposed to come up with great ideas in theory, but maybe in your case, this is not what you’re expected of. And you’re going to fail if you try to produce great ideas that no one cares about. So the expectations map is trying to move away from how this is our I’m, I’m a chief product officer. So this is I’m in charge of the roadmap, maybe, maybe not, it depends on your particular context. So that’s what I, for me the expectation that needs to come from the ground up, not being thrown down by either what other people do and other companies, or what your manager wrote as a drum description.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  45:58

Yeah, no, that’s awesome. And I think that’s a great way to put it. We have talked about a bunch of different topics now like we talked about being intellectually honest, you know, the concept of essentialism. And also simplicity, using silence and writing as a toolkit, being caring, but being skeptical, so many different concepts. And I know we’re getting close to time. One thing that the one question that we like to end with is, for all the managers and leaders out there constantly looking to get better at their craft. What tips tricks or parting words of wisdom would you like to leave them with and I will say that like, and I would love for you to tell us about this as well as I know you have a newsletter on substack. I’d love for you to also like tell people how they can get to it, and what kind of things you write about.

Rémi Guyot (BlaBlaCar)  46:57

So the newsletter is called Mind Fooled, if double O N Ed mindful dot sub saga calm. And what the reason why I chose this name is that it’s about what I try to write about is how our mind fools us. And so it’s just, you know, my observation about you know, what you can do better you understand how your brain works, the better, you can, you know, make use of it, basically, but not in an in a very scientific way more in a, you know, a very down to earth way. And so, I do talk a lot about the many topics that we, we covered today, I’ll end on one last book, as you can guess, you know, I, I learned through reading, there’s a book from 15 years ago called wrapped. And there’s a quote that never left missions, then the book starts with this quote, and it says, Your life is the sum of what you focus on. So your focus is, you know, what you pay attention to is the one thing that, you know, defines everything else. And there are two ways to interpret, you know, this thing. The first one is, if you focus on something, it ultimately is going to, you know, become a bigger part of your life, just because if you focus on becoming a good manager, then manager responsibilities are becoming a bigger part of your life. So just because if you focus on what something is going to, it’s going to grow. And the second part of the definition of this sentence is if you decide to pay attention to something or not, even though in reality, it still exists, if you decide to ignore it, it will not become part of your reality. Or if you decide to focus on great events, they’re going to, you know, your life is going to be every happy life. And so what I would encourage, any manager to do is to pay attention to where their focus is. Because I think this defines a lot about what they’re, you know, who they are as a manager, and when they say, is probably, you know, you know, sometimes people are trying to act as a manager by, you know, having some speeches or some big, you know, moments with their team, but where they put their focus is probably a better proxy of who they are as managers, that that’s something that we pay attention to, as a matter of what where do you spend your focus? And are you in line with that? Are you happy with

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  49:38

that? That’s great advice and great place to end it for me. Thanks so much for doing this.

Rémi Guyot (BlaBlaCar)  49:44

Thank you so much, you know, fantastic conversation, and thanks a lot for the preparation behind it.

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