100 Maxims for SMEs

  1. An SME’s priorities are competence, knowledge, and professionalism, in that order
  2. Your customers need trust, vision, and execution, in that order
  3. Practice your craft deliberately every day
  4. Performing in your craft rarely counts as practice
  5. Being an expert in the eyes of one person does not mean you are an expert in the eyes of another
  6. Being an expert in the eyes of many people, does not make you an expert in the eyes of all
  7. Use expertise to benefit others before you use it to benefit yourself
  8. People seek experts for one reason: to eliminate risk. So, eliminate risk
  9. Identify risks, rank them, and vanquish them in order
  10. If you can’t eliminate all risks (which you can’t) isolate and mitigate
  11. If you can help someone, don’t wait, help quickly
  12. If you can’t help someone, don’t obstruct. Clear a path for those who can
  13. Stay in your lane. Don’t pretend you’re expert in subjects you are not
  14. Keep it simple. If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old you don’t know it well enough
  15. Doing nothing is an option. Most alternatives, including your best ones, are often worse than doing nothing
  16. Challenge the status quo
  17. Know the radius of your character and stay within it
  18. Lift where you stand
  19. Don’t expect others to get out of the way, they won’t
  20. Tell the truth
  21. Don’t be arrogant when you tell the truth
  22. Keep secrets
  23. Never violate a trust
  24. Protect everyone from folly
  25. Declare your recommendations with confidence
  26. If you aren’t confident about your recommendations then don’t declare them
  27. Smooth the edges
  28. Fix what’s broken
  29. Soothe what hurts
  30. Honor what is holy
  31. When someone is wrong, assume ignorance before malice
  32. Test and test again
  33. Take care of your equipment
  34. Don’t waste anyone’s time
  35. Don’t assume you know the answer before you know the question
  36. Don’t assume people know what they want. They rarely do
  37. Don’t assume people know what you are talking about. They rarely do
  38. Listen ask, listen talk, listen, listen, listen. In that order
  39. Respect every person in the meeting, especially the least among them
  40. Find the edge of human knowledge and explore further
  41. Find the limits of your personal skill and stretch further
  42. Make your audience feel smart
  43. Answer questions with hope and optimism
  44. Interpret stupid questions as valid, serious, and important
  45. Never condescend
  46. Know your numbers
  47. If someone gives you a number, assume it’s wrong.
  48. Count twice
  49. Do the math three times
  50. Leave nothing to chance, or to the imagination
  51. Avoid expressing doubt. If you do doubt keep it to yourself unless it matters. It rarely does
  52. Never show anger
  53. Put your passion on display regularly, your emotions matter
  54. Remain current in your domain
  55. Read twice what you write before sending
  56. Assume your message will be forwarded
  57. Assume your tone will be amplified
  58. When others are doubtful display confidence; when others are confident be doubtful
  59. Don’t praise your competitors
  60. AA&TJ (Avoid acronyms and technical jargon)
  61. Find a way to say “yes” as an alternative to saying “no.”
  62. Don’t criticize your colleagues.
  63. Surprises are not a party. Don’t surprise anyone. You can warn, caution, inform, remind, signal, prompt, suggest, and urge, but don’t surprise, ever
  64. Avoid the Hindenburg. If something is going to fail, ensure it hurts no one and that it fails fast and fails cheap
  65. Know the laws that govern your domain
  66. Know the standards that inform the laws
  67. Distinguish the differences
  68. Focus on what matters
  69. Ignore distractions
  70. Be enthusiastic. If you are not excited about your subject who will be?
  71. Maintain patience when working with the unskilled
  72. Trust others and be trustworthy
  73. Don’t assume your audience trusts you, they don’t
  74. Don’t assume your audience will believe you, they won’t
  75. Don’t assume your audience is convinced by you, they’re not
  76. Don’t just talk. Give people a reason to listen
  77. Ignore the nay-sayers, the mockers, and the haters
  78. Keep it short. Don’t say “boo-hoo” when “boo” will do
  79. Rejoice in the successes of others
  80. Seek the consensus of other experts
  81. Love what you do and do what you love
  82. Know the people who set the standards of your industry, learn from them, then set the standards for your industry
  83. Grant people the space and time to grow. Let them crawl before they walk, and walk before they run
  84. Remember how hard it was to learn a skill for the first time
  85. Practice with people who are better than you, until they are no longer better than you
  86. Remember the end of the project is the hardest. The first 90% of the project will take 90% of the time. The other 10% of the project will take the other 90% of the time
  87. Avoid sarcasm when you write, speak and think. Pretty much always
  88. Be nice. If people find you offensive, they will eventually stop finding you at all
  89. Demo what your audience needs to see, not what you want to show
  90. Assume the worst conditions for your demo
  91. Never let them see you set up the demo or presentation. Configure everything in advance.
  92. Practice what you preach and preach what you practice
  93. Don’t say, “Google it.” Unless you know Google will quote you as the authority
  94. Don’t extend vain promises
  95. Focus on one person at a time. If you remain focused on one person, the world will change. If you focus on the world, no one will change.
  96. Act with autonomy. Do what must be done, especially when no one else will
  97. Context is everything. Be certain your recommendation fits the nuance of the current situation
  98. Accept accountability
  99. Avoid using absolutes. Words such as never, always, absolutely, completely, all, none, and impossible are rarely true
  100. Avoid ambiguity. If your words can be interpreted in more than one way, assume they will be interpreted in the way that does the most harm.

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