Unconventional career paths and taking risks [PermissionLESS podcast]

You might think your career arc should be a straight upward line. Maybe you’ve noticed by now it’s more of a non-linear squiggle.

I used to have a strict plan for what I wanted to do in my career and how it would look. Over the years, though, I’ve changed my thinking of what it means to take risk. It’s opened the door for lots of opportunities I never would have found otherwise.

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Wes Kao
No lazy thinking: How to train your team to think rigorously and systematically

If you're a leader, you got to where you are because you think strategically and are killer at execution. You simply can't get very far without being good at both.

Now that you're in charge of people, though, your ability to increase impact depends on how well you manage OTHER people. You need your team to become smarter, sharper A-players.

Unfortunately, sometimes smart people (like you) accidentally traumatize their teams...

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Wes Kao
Do things your Future Self will thank you for

Every time I have to explain a process to new team member, I search in my Google Drive first. Why?

I’m a documentation and playbook nerd. If I’m repeating the same conversation more than three times, I create documentation—it saves time and energy for all parties involved.

At moments like this when I find my own notes, I say, "Thanks Past Wes! You just saved me an hour."

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Wes Kao
Technical leaders make these 3 common storytelling mistakes

I recently had the privilege of giving a talk for Backstage Capital and their amazing early-stage portfolio companies. My talk was called “Storytelling for Technical Founders” and I shared how technical leaders can tell better stories.

Here are a few common mistakes and takeaways:

1. Over-reliance on technical details

Real-life is non-linear, but stories are linear. Therefore, stories are always a simplification.

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Wes Kao
Your team should be getting 20% smarter every year [ActiveCampaign podcast]

Whether you're a changemaker within an organization, or a startup CEO running your own company, your ability to do great work is directly tied to your team's performance.

You realized this when you transitioned from an individual contributor to a people manager. But it's likely a lesson you're constantly reminded of.

Almost every week, I hear a founder say, "I'm the bottleneck for everything. How do I get my team to be as smart as I am?”

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Wes Kao
Read your messaging in a robot voice

My obsession with messaging is based on my personal experience editing hundreds of pages of copy for myself, my direct reports, and my clients. When your brand is on the line, you're incentivized to make sure copy gets your audience to take action, achieves the outcome you want, and represents you well (so you don't invite a flurry of customer complaints).

In other words, if you're a leader or changemaker who uses words to persuade, this post is for you.

I want to tell you about what I call the robot voice method.

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Wes Kao
To drive growth, focus on increasing desire—not just decreasing friction

As a marketer, salesperson, UX designer, or product leader, part of your job is to reduce the friction involved if someone wants to buy something from you.

For example:

  • Make the button bigger

  • Use brighter colors

  • Write shorter copy

  • Put everything on the homepage above the fold

  • Add the call-to-action button everywhere on the website

  • Send reminder emails about the sale

  • Use monetary incentives, e.g. discounts, bundles, promotions, and reverse promotions ("The price goes up next month!”)

The underlying assumption is, “If I make this easier (or cheaper) for you, you’ll eventually want it.”

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Wes Kao
Activation energy and why it matters for product launches

If you mix diluted hydrochloric acid with carefully measured strips of magnesium, you’ll get hydrogen...

You need a certain amount of each chemical though. If you don’t, the reaction won’t happen. You’ll get silence.

Activation energy is a term I learned from my friend Yuki, a biochemist who grows meat from cell cultures in Petri dishes. It’s “the minimum quantity of energy needed in order to undergo a specified reaction.”

Many projects take a level of activation energy before you start to see feedback—negative or positive. Maybe you’re an inch away from seeing a result, maybe you are a mile away...

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Wes Kao
Be your own mentor

No one is coming to save you.

[Cue panic and running around in circles.]

I remember the first time I realized no one knew the right answer. It was simultaneously alarming and liberating.

Heck, I sat ten feet away from the most famous marketer in the world.

One day, we were discussing growth strategies. He stopped and said, “Wes, you should decide. I don’t have the answer. If I did, I’d just tell you."

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Wes Kao