Can I pick your brain?
Pick someone’s brains (or brain)
obtain information by questioning someone who is better informed about a subject than oneself.
What’s your first reaction when someone asks ‘can I pick your brain?’ Do you get excited and jump at the chance to share your wisdom with an eager listener who will appreciate you and your knowledge?
Or do you cringe at the thought that someone expects you share years of hard work, learning, and experience and distill it into concise answers all for the cost of a coffee?
I think you’d agree, occasional requests are manageable and even appreciated. However, as you achieve more in your professional life, the requests to ‘pick your brain?’ increase.
After you earn a promotion; earn a professional certification; jump from corporate to your indie biz; you’ll get an influx of requests. I’ve experienced those and more recently, after I wrote and published a few books; my brain apparently needed more picking.?
Let’s be honest, It can be both flattering and annoying. But what can you do?
How to handle ‘pick your brain’ requests
Whether you’re in the c-suite or a solo-prenuer, the following approaches gathered from professionals who are successful at managing frequent requests to ‘pick your brain’ will help:
Step 1. Gather your brilliance.
If you’ve had more than three brain picking requests, you’ll notice a pattern. What are the most common questions you’re asked? Gather those questions and answers in an easy to share format.
Write a document. Create a slide deck. Write and publish a blog post, Record an audio podcast. Video yourself being interviewed. The form isn’t as important as getting the information into a sharable format.
Having the frequently asked questions gathered in one place will save you having the same conversation over and over again.
Step 2. Create your Asset.
Once you have your collected knowledge crafted into your ‘pick your brain’ asset, it’s time to implement the process.
Before you entertain any meetings, direct all requests to ‘pick your brain’ to your asset. Have them thoroughly review this package first. Most likely it will answer a majority of their questions. Many people won’t need to go any farther.
The beauty of this approach is you can help a lot more people than you could if you only had live calls or face-to-face meetings.
Of course if they still have questions, you can move on to the next step.
Step 3. Get focused.
Once you’ve confirmed your brain picker has reviewed your carefully crafted pre-work, it’s time to set some constraints.
Ask for specific questions. Ask them to send these questions to you ahead of time. This will help you stay focused and more importantly, determine if this is a pick your brain session or would be better scheduled as a paid consultation.
At this point, if you lean more toward the ‘annoyed’ end of the continuum, you may want to consider charging an appropriate fee for this consultation. Many indie consultants’ don’t sell products, but rather their knowledge IS their product. In this case it is appropriate to inform your picker of your fee and process for scheduling a consult.
Step 4. Have the talk.
Before you do anything, it’s important to set expectations and limitations. Both for the picker and yourself. This is especially important for those who love to chat and often get carried away in conversation. You have important work to do. Make sure you are spending your time wisely.
Expectations are partly managed by the ‘Get Focused’ step – narrowing the questions and topic. Make sure you stick to the agenda. Set expectations at the beginning of the call or meeting as to the scope of the conversation.
Another limitation to use is time. Many professionals limit these sessions to phone calls of 15-20 minutes. It is the least disruptive to your day and it will help you screen your picker to determine next steps.
Another way to set limitations is to set aside a specific block of time for all brain picking conversations. If Friday at 8am is best for you, have your picker schedule the next available Friday. Don’t stray from that time no matter what. If the person is not available on that Friday at that time, have them pick another Friday.
TIP: There are a number of scheduling apps that make this type of process effortless. My preference is AcuityScheduling.com(aff).
Balancing give and take.
Developing relationships, connecting with other professionals in your field, mentoring and giving back are all part of our professional lives. If sharing knowledge is part of what you do for a living, then it’s important to make sure each exchange is equitable for both you and the picker.
Each of us will design and implement an approach that matches our values, our business, and our schedules.
What would help you to manage ‘pick your brain’ requests? What’s the very next step in making that happen?
I know I’ll be working on my asset in the coming weeks. This is all part of my mission to help you get your brilliance out of your head and into the world.