Weekly Thoughts


Interviewer vs. Criminal Lawyer

A lot of searchers are self-conscious about meeting with business owners because of the perceived mismatch in skillset.  The searcher is a “novice” and the business owner is the “expert”.  As a result, some try too hard to “sell” their business acumen, an approach that is at best misguided and at worst extremely off-putting.  

Over time we have developed a different mindset.  Meetings, to us, are not an opportunity for us to sell ourselves.  Rather, they are an opportunity to share and gather information.  Along this line of thinking we enjoyed hearing some insights into how Larry King approaches his craft after conducting more than 60,000 interviews. 

From a 2016 Lewis Howes podcast

“These are little things I learned in the passing of life, you know? I never learned anything when I was talking — that was my motto on the air. So, I asked short questions. You [have] got to be a good listener… often an answer brings a good question… And if you’re a good listener and you stay focused and you’re naturally curious, interviewing is a great way to make a living.” 

As Yogi Berra says, you can observe a lot just by watching.  In spite of Larry’s nonchalant insight, we still would have guessed he spends days prepping for interviews with global politicians, world-class athletes, and A-list celebrities.  But, we were surprised to learn that he does quite the opposite.  From the show notes

“Before his interviews, Larry goes over some quick notes, but he said he doesn’t actually ‘prepare’ for the interviews in detail. He said he always wants to ask questions that he doesn’t know the answer to. So, rather than coming into the interview as an expert, Larry King comes into the interview to learn.”

Importantly, this approach is not laziness; this is strategic.  From the podcast

“It’s the opposite of the criminal lawyer. The criminal lawyer never wants to be surprised in court.  So he wants to thoroughly know what’s going to be said. If he’s surprised, he’s done something wrong. I want to be surprised all the time.” 

We love this insight.  Reflecting on King’s approach, we have found that, somewhat counterintuitively, some of our most productive meetings have not been because of extensive amounts of preparation but because we have gone into the meeting with some big questions to address and space to allow for an authentic conversation to develop.  Of course, there are other meetings where we need to be criminal lawyers.  We need to do copious prep work and come in knowing our stuff.  It seems the trick is to know when to be interviewers and when to be criminal lawyers.  So, we’ll give readers a hot tip: an intro meeting with a business owner is definitely not the time to be a criminal lawyer.  In those meetings, just ask some basic questions, shut up, and listen. 

Have a great week,

Your Chenmark Team

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