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Steve Knight; Art of Communication on the Plus Eight San Francisco Trip

May 28, 2019

Once a journalist, always a journalist. Always curious, always inquiring about situations, and the lives and experiences of others.

As such I had a tough first impression (or actually second impression, as I had been to San Francisco twenty years ago). Now you know what I do, there is no point shying away from it, or erasing it from memory...there are way too many lost souls, drug addiction and serious mental health issues on the streets of downtown San Francisco.

Normally, I might choose to position tough aspects like the above in the middle of an article; to sandwich the gritty stuff in between the good stuff, but that just does not sit right for the above subject. So there you have it, at the start, because it is a very serious matter indeed.

So, let’s now take a deep breath and here we go for the rest of my experiences of the muru-D backed, Plus Eight Accelerator Program trip to San Francisco. You will no doubt be pleased and relieved to hear that all other aspects of the trip were fantastic and here’s why (and especially because the US trip was so early on in the Programme)…

I am totally in my comfort zone when I am coaching and teaching and guiding others to excellence. I know what to do, how to do it, when to do it and how to be fully adaptable and flexible in my approach. I feel totally on top of my game and that feels great and extremely fulfilling. It’s why I put all those years in, perfecting my game, my sweet spot, in service of helping and developing others.

Now, being part of a startup community, with the goal of using the Art of Comms app to help far more people become confident speakers and communicators, there are things that I don’t know. Things that I am not the master, coach or professor of. As such, I am the student/participant and now I have need of a coach, a guide, a master of this arena, who is operating in their sweet spot. I find that psychologically fascinating and exhilarating and I love it.

Of course that’s also somewhat scary. It’s like handing over the cockpit of the plane to someone else who is well versed and totally competent in flying a different kind of plane, with different passengers on board, who are heading to unexplored territories for me. In order to do that, to my positive advantage and continued learning, I need to put my faith in someone else, in others. I must be able to trust them.

As I write this, I realise even more that this is an incredible opportunity to evolve, because the learning environment is the equivalent of being accepted on to an executive education programme, that enables you to stretch, to grow, to lean in when you feel uncomfortable and challenged, to certainly not be ashamed when you don’t know something and to be honest and openly share that and ask for help.

So, in effect, this is a learning environment for a founder/co-founder, an entrepreneur, an adventurer, a risk-taker, a teambuilder, a person of belief, commitment and faith, a CEO, a COO, a CFO, a CTO, it is everything poured into one great opportunity. It is the start of a journey, even if you are already on the path. It is the vision manifested, the goal to go for, the dream and the aspiration to reach for. It is the fuel on the fire. It is the energy and momentum. It is the challenge and the stretch. It is what you make it. It will be what you put in. It will become who you are and what you can be. The only potential restrictions are the limiting beliefs that you or I may unwittingly choose to place in front of us as obstacles. The only people that can shift any obstacles that we may have placed in our way is you and me.  

In order for me to learn, I also need to manage being called up, when I have not hit the mark. When I have not given excellence in these new areas and I find that immensely exhilarating.

I often say/ask at the start of our classes at INSEAD Business School, or courses that we run for organisations, “Who am I to be standing here as a professor in front of you if I stopped learning several years ago?” So this is the wondrous dynamic and principle of never stop learning. Thank you to our very own muru-D’s, Julie Trell, for sharing with me the phrase, “Be a learn it all, not a know it all.” I say Amen to that.

Here are my top tips for making your trip to San Francisco is a success…

Where possible, respectfully and mindfully call on local connections to introduce you to those who are in a position to help you or point you in the right direction. When the doors open, be yourself and be able and willing to learn and enjoy the experience, chemistry and connection. You just never know where these meetings may lead you. What an opportunity.

Appreciate and value the Valley welcome and hospitality and spirit of giving back.

Always say thank you and email a thank you.  

Push beyond your comfort zones

Another golden nugget from muru-D’s Julie Trell: If you’re not ready don’t rush in. If you ask for money you’ll most likely get advice. If you ask for advice, you may well just get some money.

Be mindful of not over-creating stereotypes ie Aussie/Brit/Irish V American. Stories and accounts that you may hear on the trip can be humorous and fun, but make sure you apply your own lenses and fully observe the reality that you experience in the moment when you have meetings.

It’s very OK to be the oldest (most senior in years) in the cohort. Yes, that’s me, as discovered on our cohort coaching and communications skills workshop. What an opportunity. Amazing that some of our cohort are the same age as my two eldest children (young adults, daughters). How fantastic is that. Awesome. Great for all. Wonderful.

The panel discussions and organised events of the trip were very useful and effective in shedding light, insights and advice on the Bay Area culture, the legal aspects, the do’s and dont’s, what to do if you want to flip your company over to a US based one, product management, seeking VC funding, etc.

The bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge came at just the right time at the weekend. Thank you to our Perth EIR, Derek Gerrard, for instigating that. Thank you to all of you who were on the ride for the shared experience. A 10/10 day.

Thank you also Derek, for helping me to focus in and make an informed decision as to whether to go for the B2B or B2C market. B2B it is, at least for the first 6 to 12 months.

Seeing Hamilton, the musical at The Orpheum Theatre was also a 10/10 experience.

It's all about relationships and networking and having a generous and grateful heart and soul.

A big thanks to the following (in addition to those mentioned above)…

My great San Francisco based friend, Jared, who introduced me to people who were able to offer spot-on advice and insights. I had two days of great meetings in San Francisco and Menlo Park. Thank you to those of you who hosted me.

Fellow Executive Coach, Ricki Frankel, for hosting me at Stanford Graduate School of Business, where by courtesy of Nike co-founder, Phil Knight, the family name that he and I share was proudly emblazoned everywhere I looked.

Amit Baranwal, Cisco Product Manager, INSEAD MBA alumnus and Certified Rater on our Art of Comms app, for the catch up at Stanford.

The Spacecubed Plus Eight team from Perth, Brodie McCulloch, Kate Kirwin and the Muru-D team from Sydney, Julie Trell, Nathalie Yan-Chatonsky and Nicola Farrell.

My peers on the Program from Perth and Sydney.

My good and generous friend Glen who told me about the Plus Eight Program and introduced me to Tim Brewer, the EIR for the previous two years who suggested I apply.

I am immensely grateful and proud to be on this growth journey, both from a personal and business perspective. What an endorsement. What an opportunity.